Elastic fiber formation: A dynamic view of extracellular matrix assembly using timer reporters

Beth A. Kozel, Brenda J. Rongish, Andras Czirok, Julia Zach, Charles D. Little, Elaine C. Davis, Russell H. Knutsen, Jessica E. Wagenseil, Marilyn A. Levy, Robert P. Mecham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

137 Scopus citations


To study the dynamics of elastic fiber assembly, mammalian cells were transfected with a cDNA construct encoding bovine tropoelastin in frame with the Timer reporter. Timer is a derivative of the DsRed fluorescent protein that changes from green to red overtime and, hence, can be used to distinguish new from old elastin. Using dynamic imaging microscopy, we found that the first step in elastic fiber formation is the appearance of small cell surface-associated elastin globules that increased in size with time (microassembly). The elastin globules are eventually transferred to pre-existing elastic fibers in the extracellular matrix where they coalesce into larger structures (macroassembly). Mechanical forces associated with cell movement help shape the forming, extracellular elastic fiber network. Time-lapse imaging combined with the use of Timer constructs provides unique tools for studying the temporal and spatial aspects of extracellular matrix formation by live cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87-96
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2006


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