Mechanical strain applied to human fibroblasts differentially regulates skeletal myoblast differentiation

Michael R. Hicks, Thanh V. Cao, David H. Campbell, Paul R. Standley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Cyclic short-duration stretches (CSDS) such as those resulting from repetitive motion strain increase the risk of musculoskeletal injury. Myofascial release is a common technique used by clinicians that applies an acyclic long-duration stretch (ALDS) to muscle fascia to repair injury. When subjected to mechanical strain, fibroblasts within muscle fascia secrete IL-6, which has been shown to induce myoblast differentiation, essential for muscle repair. We hypothesize that fibroblasts subjected to ALDS following CSDS induce myoblast differentiation through IL-6. Fibroblast conditioned media and fibroblastmyoblast cocultures were used to test fibroblasts' ability to induce myoblast differentiation. The coculture system applies strain to fibroblasts only but still allows for diffusion of potential differentiation mediators to unstrained myoblasts on coverslips. To determine the role of IL-6, we utilized myoblast unicultures ± IL-6 (0-100 ng/ml) and cocultures ± α-IL-6 (0-200 μg/ml). Untreated uniculture myoblasts served as a negative control. After 96 h, coverslips (n = 6-21) were microscopically analyzed and quantified by blinded observer for differentiation endpoints: myotubes per square millimeter (<3 nuclei/cell), nuclei/myotube, and fusion efficiency (%nuclei within myotubes). The presence of fibroblasts and fibroblast conditioned media significantly enhanced myotube number (P < 0.05). However, in coculture, CSDS applied to fibroblasts did not reproduce this effect. ALDS following CSDS increased myotube number by 78% and fusion efficiency by 96% vs. CSDS alone (P < 0.05). Fibroblasts in coculture increase IL-6 secretion; however, IL-6 secretion did not correlate with enhanced differentiation among strain groups. Exogenous IL-6 in myoblast uniculture failed to induce differentiation. However, α-IL-6 attenuated differentiation in all coculture groups (P < 0.05). Fibroblasts secrete soluble mediators that have profound effects on several measures of myoblast differentiation. Specific biophysical strain patterns modify these outcomes, and suggest that myofascial release after repetitive strain increases myoblast differentiation and thus may improve muscle repair in vivo. Neutralization of IL-6 in coculture significantly reduced differentiation, suggesting fibroblast-IL-6 is necessary but not sufficient in this process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-472
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Coculture
  • Interleukin-6
  • Myotubes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanical strain applied to human fibroblasts differentially regulates skeletal myoblast differentiation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this