Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 17, 2012
Previous Article Next Article

Wetting transitions of cellular aggregates induced by substrate rigidity

Author affiliations


The inhibition of tissue spreading is of great interest for medical applications, including the prevention of tumor mass dispersal to avoid cancer propagation. While chemical approaches have previously been reported to control tissue spreading, here we investigate a physical mechanism to inhibit spreading. We study the effect of substrate rigidity on the statics and dynamics of spreading of spheroidal aggregates of cells deposited on fibronectin-coated polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) and polyacrylamide (PAA) substrates by tuning the elastic modulus E from 0.2 kPa to 1.8 MPa while maintaining a constant chemical environment. On rigid substrates, above a threshold elastic modulus Ec ≈ 8 kPa, the aggregate spreads with a cellular monolayer expanding around the aggregate (“complete wetting”). The kinetics of spreading obeys a diffusive law with a diffusion coefficient D(E) presenting a maximum that we interpret theoretically. At E = Ec, we observe a wetting transition, and on soft substrates (E < Ec), the aggregate no longer spreads. Instead, it flattens and adopts an equilibrium shape of a spherical cap with a finite contact angle (“partial wetting”). These results provide insight into the relevant physical principles underlying cellular aggregate spreading, a phenomenon of interest in the understanding of tumor spreading and invasion.

Graphical abstract: Wetting transitions of cellular aggregates induced by substrate rigidity

Back to tab navigation

Publication details

The article was received on 19 Dec 2011, accepted on 15 Feb 2012 and first published on 08 Mar 2012

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C2SM07418D
Soft Matter, 2012,8, 4578-4583

  •   Request permissions

    Wetting transitions of cellular aggregates induced by substrate rigidity

    S. Douezan, J. Dumond and F. Brochard-Wyart, Soft Matter, 2012, 8, 4578
    DOI: 10.1039/C2SM07418D

Search articles by author