Microfluidic system for measuring neutrophil migratory responses to fast switches of chemical gradients
Experimental systems that provide temporal and spatial control of chemical gradients are required for probing into the complex mechanisms of eukaryotic cell chemotaxis. However, no current technique can simultaneously generate stable chemical gradients and allow fast gradient changes. We developed a microfluidic system with microstructured membranes for exposing neutrophils to fast and precise changes between stable, linear gradients of the known chemoattractant Interleukin-8 (IL-8). We observed that rapidly lowering the average concentration of IL-8 within a gradient, while preserving the direction of the gradient, resulted in temporary neutrophil depolarization. Fast reversal of the gradient direction while increasing or decreasing the average concentration also resulted in temporary depolarization. Neutrophils adapted and maintained their directional motility, only when the average gradient concentration was increased and the direction of the gradient preserved. Based on these observations we propose a two-component temporal sensing mechanism that uses variations of chemokine concentration averaged over the entire cell surface and localized at the leading edge, respectively, and directs neutrophil responses to changes in their chemical microenvironment.