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Issue 20, 2011
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Assessing the spatial resolution of cellular rigidity sensing using a micropatterned hydrogel–photoresist composite

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Abstract

The biophysical machinery that permits a cell to sense substrate rigidity is poorly understood. Rigidity sensing of adherent cells likely involves traction forces applied through focal adhesions and measurement of resulting deformation. However, it is unclear if this measurement takes place underneath single focal adhesions, over local clusters of focal adhesions, or across the length of the entire cell. To address this question, we developed a composite, chip-based material containing many arrays of 6.5 μm × 6.5 μm rigid adhesive islands, with an edge–edge distance of 8 μm, grafted onto the surface of a non-adhesive polyacrylamide hydrogel. This material is thus rigid within single islands while long-range rigidity is determined by the hydrogel. On soft gels, most NIH 3T3 cells spread only across two islands in a given dimension forming small stress fibers and focal adhesions. On stiff gels, cell spreading, stress fibers, and focal adhesions were indistinguishable from those on regular culture surfaces. We conclude that rigidity sensing is dictated by material compliance across the cell length and that responses to rigidity may be inhibited at any point when large substrate strain is encountered during spreading. Our finding may serve as a guideline for the design of biomaterials for tissue engineering.

Graphical abstract: Assessing the spatial resolution of cellular rigidity sensing using a micropatterned hydrogel–photoresist composite

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Publication details

The article was received on 10 Jun 2011, accepted on 11 Aug 2011 and first published on 07 Sep 2011


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C1LC20504H
Lab Chip, 2011,11, 3538-3544

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    Assessing the spatial resolution of cellular rigidity sensing using a micropatterned hydrogel–photoresist composite

    I. T. Hoffecker, W. Guo and Y. Wang, Lab Chip, 2011, 11, 3538
    DOI: 10.1039/C1LC20504H

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