Modulation of cell adhesion strengthening by nanoscale geometries at the adhesive interface
Coyer, Sean R.
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Cell adhesion to extracellular matrices (ECM) is critical to many cellular processes including differentiation, proliferation, migration, and apoptosis. Alterations in adhesive mechanisms are central to the behavior of cells in pathological conditions including cancer, atherosclerosis, and defects in wound healing. Although significant progress has been made in identifying molecules involved in adhesion, the mechanisms that dictate the generation of strong adhesive forces remain poorly understood. Specifically, the role of nanoscale geometry of the adhesive interface in integrin recruitment and adhesion forces remains elusive due to limitations in the techniques available for engineering cell adhesion environments. The objective of this project was to analyze the role of nanoscale geometry in cell adhesion strengthening to ECM. Our central hypothesis was that adhesive interactions are regulated by integrin clusters whose recruitment is determined by the nanoscale geometry of the adhesive interface and whose heterogeneity in size, spacing, and orientation modulates adhesion strength. The objective of this project was accomplished by 1) developing an experimental technique capable of producing nanoscale patterns of proteins on surfaces for cell adhesion arrays, 2) assessing the regulation of integrin recruitment by geometry of the adhesive interface, and 3) determining the functional implications of adhesive interface geometry by systematically analyzing the adhesion strengthening response to nanoscale patterns of proteins. A printing technique was developed that patterns proteins into features as small as 90nm with high contrast and high reproducibility. Cell adhesion arrays were produced by directly immobilizing proteins into patterns on mixed-SAMs surfaces with a protein-resistant background. Colocalization analysis of integrin recruitment to FN patterns demonstrated a concentrating effect of bound integrins at pattern sizes with areas equivalent to small nascent focal adhesions. At adhesion areas below 333 × 333 nm2, the frequency of integrin recruitment events decreased significantly indicating a threshold size for integrin clustering. Functionally, pattern sizes below the threshold were unable to participate in generation of adhesion strength. In contrast, patterns between the threshold and micron sizes showed a relationship between adhesion strength and area of individual adhesion points, independent of the total available adhesion area. These studies introduce a robust platform for producing nanoscale patterns of proteins in biologically relevant geometries. Results obtained using this approach yielded new insights on the role of nanoscale organization of the adhesive interface in modulating adhesion strength and integrin recruitment.
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