Self-assembled N-cadherin mimetic peptide hydrogels promote the chondrogenesis of mesenchymal stem cells through inhibition of canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling

Rui Li, Jianbin Xu, Dexter Siu Hong Wong, Jinming Li, Pengchao Zhao, Liming Bian

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

98 Citations (Scopus)


N-cadherin, a transmembrane protein and major component of adherens junction, mediates cell-cell interactions and intracellular signaling that are important to the regulation of cell behaviors and organ development. Previous studies have identified mimetic peptides that possess similar bioactivity as that of N-cadherin, which promotes chondrogenesis of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs); however, the molecular mechanism remains unknown. In this study, we combined the N-cadherin mimetic peptide (HAVDI) with the self-assembling KLD-12 peptide: the resultant peptide is capable of self-assembling into hydrogels functionalized with N-cadherin peptide in phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) at 37 °C. Encapsulation of hMSCs in these hydrogels showed enhanced expression of chondrogenic marker genes and deposition of cartilage specific extracellular matrix rich in proteoglycan and Type II Collagen compared to control hydrogels, with a scrambled-sequence peptide after 14 days of chondrogenic culture. Furthermore, western blot showed a significantly higher expression of active glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β), which phosphorylates β-catenin and facilitates ubiquitin-mediated degradation, as well as a lower expression of β-catenin and LEF1 in the N-cadherin peptide hydrogels versus controls. Immunofluorescence staining revealed significantly less nuclear localization of β-catenin in N-cadherin mimetic peptide hydrogels. Our findings suggest that N-cadherin peptide hydrogels suppress canonical Wnt signaling in hMSCs by reducing β-catenin nuclear translocation and the associated transcriptional activity of β-catenin/LEF-1/TCF complex, thereby enhancing the chondrogenesis of hMSCs. Our biomimetic self-assembled peptide hydrogels can serve as a tailorable and versatile three-dimensional culture platform to investigate the effect of biofunctionalization on stem cell behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-43
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


  • Canonical Wnt signaling
  • Chondrogenesis
  • Mesenchymal stem cell
  • N-cadherin
  • Self-assembly peptide
  • β-catenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


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