Cell elongation and differentiation has been shown to be modulated by topographical cues provided by grating substratum. However, little is known about the mechanisms and forces involved in the grating-induced cell elongation, due to the difficulty in fabricating soft elastic gels that allow 3-dimensional (3D) cell traction stress measurements. In this paper, we present a method to fabricate soft elastic polyacrylamide grating substrates, using an imprinted polyethylene terephthalate mould, for 3D cell traction stress measurements. Fibroblasts were observed to form protrusions in the grating grooves, and elongate and align parallel to the grating direction on the soft polyacrylamide grating substrates. Focal adhesions were also found to be aligned parallel to the grating direction as compared to cells on flat substrates, suggesting that grating grooves restrict focal adhesion growth perpendicular to the grating direction. The 3D traction stress measurements revealed that highly elongated fibroblasts on grating substrates exert anisotropic traction stresses, in the direction parallel to the grating direction. We propose that focal adhesion alignment along the grating direction may result in increased actin stress fibre formation in the direction parallel to the grating, leading to polarized traction stresses which drive cell elongation.
Biomaterials, Vol. 181, October 2018, Pg 103-112, doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2018.07.057
Date of acceptance