Biologically active ligands (e.g., RGDS from fibronectin) play critical roles in the development of chemically defined biomaterials. However, recent decades have shown only limited progress in discovering novel extracellular matrix protein derived ligands for translational applications. Through motif analysis of evolutionarily conserved RGD-containing regions in laminin (LM) and peptide-functionalized hydrogel microarray screening, we identified a peptide (a1) that showed superior supports for endothelial cell (EC) functions. Mechanistic studies attributed the results to the capacity of a1 engaging both LM-and Fn-binding integrins. RNA sequencing of ECs in a1-functionalized hydrogels showed ~60% similarities with Matrigel in "vasculature development" gene ontology terms. Vasculogenesis assays revealed the capacity of a1-formulated hydrogels to improve EC network formation. Injectable alginates functionalized with a1 and MMPQK (a vascular endothelial growth factor mimetic peptide with a matrix metalloproteinase degradable linker) increased blood perfusion and functional recovery over decellularized extracellular matrix and (RGDS + MMPQK) functionalized hydrogels in an ischemic hindlimb model, illustrating the power of this approach.
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