Biomechanical activation of keloid fibroblasts promotes lysosomal remodelling and exocytosis

Rosie Ross, Yiyang Guo, Rebecca N Walker, Daniele Bergamaschi, Tanya J Shaw, John T Connelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Keloids are a severe form of scarring for which the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood, and treatment options are limited or inconsistent. Although biomechanical forces are potential drivers of keloid scarring, the direct cellular responses to mechanical cues have yet to be defined. The aim of this study was to examine the distinct responses of normal dermal fibroblasts and keloid-derived fibroblasts (KDFs) to changes in extracellular matrix stiffness. When cultured on hydrogels mimicking the elasticity of normal or scarred skin, KDFs displayed greater stiffness-dependent increases in cell spreading, F-actin stress fiber formation, and focal adhesion assembly. Elevated actomyosin contractility in KDFs disrupted the normal mechanical regulation of extracellular matrix deposition and conferred resistance on myosin inhibitors. Transcriptional profiling identified mechanically regulated pathways in normal dermal fibroblasts and KDFs, including the actin cytoskeleton, Hippo signaling, and autophagy. Further analysis of the autophagy pathway revealed that autophagic flux was intact in both fibroblast populations and depended on actomyosin contractility. However, KDFs displayed marked changes in lysosome organization and an increase in lysosomal exocytosis, which was mediated by actomyosin contractility. Together, these findings demonstrate that KDFs possess an intrinsic increase in cytoskeletal tension, which heightens the response to extracellular matrix mechanics and promotes lysosomal exocytosis.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 May 2024


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