Matrix stiffness regulates Notch signaling activity in endothelial cells

Maibritt Kretschmer, Rose Mamistvalov, David Sprinzak, Angelika M. Vollmar, Stefan Zahler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Notch signaling is critical for many developmental and disease-related processes. It is widely accepted that Notch has a mechanotransduction module that regulates receptor cleavage. However, the role of biomechanical properties of the cellular environment in Notch signaling in general is still poorly understood. During angiogenesis, differentiation of endothelial cells into tip and stalk cells is regulated by Notch signaling, and remodeling of the extracellular matrix occurs. We investigated the influence of substrate stiffness on the Notch signaling pathway in endothelial cells. Using stiffness-tuned polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrates, we show that activity of the Notch signaling pathway inversely correlates with a physiologically relevant range of substrate stiffness (i.e. increased Notch signaling activity on softer substrates). Trans-endocytosis of the Notch extracellular domain, but not the overall endocytosis, is regulated by substrate stiffness, and integrin cell–matrix connections are both stiffness dependent and influenced by Notch signaling. We conclude that mechanotransduction of Notch activation is modulated by substrate stiffness, highlighting the role of substrate rigidity as an important cue for signaling. This might have implications in pathological situations associated with stiffening of the extracellular matrix, such as tumor growth.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberjcs260442
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Dll4
  • Endothelial cells
  • Mechanosensing
  • Notch1
  • Substrate stiffness


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