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Intrinsic Response Towards Physiologic Stiffness is Cell-Type Dependent

Michael Reimer, Silviya Petrova Zustiak, Saahil Sheth, Joseph Martin Schober
Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics 2018, 76 (1-2): 197-208
In the continuous search for better tissue engineering scaffolds it has become increasingly clear that the substrate properties dramatically affect cell responses. Here we compared cells from a physiologically stiff tissue, melanoma, to cells isolated from a physiologically soft tissue, brain. We measured the cell line responses to laminin immobilized onto glass or polyacrylamide hydrogels tuned to have a Young's modulus ranging from 1 to 390 kPa. Single cells were analyzed for spreading area, shape, total actin content, actin-based morphological features and modification of immobilized laminin. Both cell types exhibited stiffness- and laminin concentration-dependent responses on polyacrylamide and glass. Melanoma cells exhibited very little spreading and were rounded on soft (1, 5, and 15 kPa) hydrogels while cells on stiff (40, 100, and 390 kPa) hydrogels were spread and had a polarized cell shape with large lamellipodia. On rigid glass surfaces, spreading and actin-based morphological features were not observed until laminin concentration was much higher. Similarly, increased microglia cell spreading and presence of actin-based structures were observed on stiff hydrogels. However, responses on rigid glass surfaces were much different. Microglia cells had large spreading areas and elongated shapes on glass compared to hydrogels even when immobilized laminin density was consistent on all gels. While cell spreading and shape varied with Young's modulus of the hydrogel, the concentration of f-actin was constant. A decrease in laminin immunofluorescence was associated with melanoma and microglia cell spreading on glass with high coating concentration of laminin, indicating modification of immobilized laminin triggered by supraphysiologic stiffness and high ligand density. These results suggest that some cell lines are more sensitive to mechanical properties matching their native tissue environment while other cell lines may require stiffness and extracellular ligand density well above physiologic tissue before saturation in cell spreading, elongation and cytoskeletal re-organization are reached.


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