Reentrant wetting transition in the spreading of cellular aggregates†
We study spreading on soft substrates of cellular aggregates using CT26 cells that produce an extracellular matrix (ECM). Compared to our previous work on the spreading of S180 cellular aggregates, which did not secrete ECMs, we found that the spreading velocity of the precursor film is also maximal for intermediate rigidities, but new striking features show up. First, we observed a cascade of liquid–gas–liquid (L/G/L) transitions of the precursor film as the substrate rigidity is decreased. We attribute the L/G transition to a decrease of cell/cell adhesion resulting from the weakening of the cell/substrate adhesion. We attribute the reentrant liquid phase (G/L) observed on soft substrates to the slow spreading of the aggregates on ultra-soft substrates, which gives time to the cells to secrete more ECM proteins and stick together. Second, a nematic order appears in the cohesive (liquid) states of the precursor film, attributed to the gradient of cell's velocities.