The development of functional scaffolds with improved osteogenic potential is important for successful bone formation and mineralization in bone tissue engineering. In this study, we developed a functional electrospun silk fibroin (SF) nanofibrous scaffold functionalized with two-stage hydroxyapatite (HAp) particles, using mussel adhesive-inspired polydopamine (PDA) chemistry. HAp particles were first incorporated into SF scaffolds during the electrospinning process, and then immobilized onto the electrospun SF nanofibrous scaffolds containing HAp via PDA-mediated adhesive chemistry. We obtained two-stage HAp-functionalized SF nanofibrous scaffolds with improved mechanical properties and capable of providing a bone-specific physiological microenvironment. The developed scaffolds were tested for their ability to enhance the osteogenic differentiation of human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hADMSCs) in vitro and repair bone defect in vivo. To boost their ability for bone repair, we genetically modified hADMSCs with the transcriptional coactivator with PDZbinding motif (TAZ) via polymer nanoparticle-mediated gene delivery. TAZ is a well-known transcriptional modulator that activates the osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Two-stage HAp-functionalized SF scaffolds significantly promoted the osteogenic differentiation of TAZ-transfected hADMSCs in vitro and enhanced mineralized bone formation in a critical-sized calvarial bone defect model. Our study shows the potential utility of SF scaffolds with nanofibrous structures and enriched inorganic components in bone tissue engineering.
electrospun silk fibroin scaffolds, hydroxyapatite particles, polydopamine, human adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells, osteogenesis