Visualizing collagen proteolysis by peptide hybridization: From 3D cell culture to in vivo imaging

Lucas L. Bennink, Yang Li, Bumjin Kim, Ik Jae Shin, Boi Hoa San, Maurizio Zangari, Donghoon Yoon, S. Michael Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Degradation of the extracellular matrix (ECM) is one of the fundamental factors contributing to a variety of life-threatening or disabling pathological conditions. However, a thorough understanding of the degradation mechanism and development of new ECM-targeting diagnostics are severely hindered by a lack of technologies for direct interrogation of the ECM structures at the molecular level. Previously we demonstrated that the collagen hybridizing peptide [CHP, sequence: (GPO)9, O: hydroxyproline] can specifically recognize the degraded and unfolded collagen chains through triple helix formation. Here we show that fluorescently labeled CHP robustly visualizes the pericellular matrix turnover caused by proteolytic migration of cancer cells within 3D collagen culture, without the use of synthetic fluorogenic matrices or genetically modified cells. To facilitate in vivo imaging, we modified the CHP sequence by replacing each proline with a (2S,4S)-4-fluoroproline (f) residue which interferes with the peptide's inherent propensity to self-assemble into homo-triple helices. We show that the new CHP, (GfO)9, tagged with a near-infrared fluorophore, enables in vivo imaging and semi-quantitative assessment of osteolytic bone lesions in mouse models of multiple myeloma. Compared to conventional techniques (e.g., micro-CT), CHP-based imaging is simple and versatile in vitro and in vivo. Therefore, we envision CHP's applications in broad biomedical contexts ranging from studies of ECM biology and drug efficiency to development of clinical molecular imaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-76
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone resorption
  • Cell migration
  • ECM proteolysis
  • Imaging probe
  • Triple helix

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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