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Cell Biophys. 1991 Apr;18(2):145-82.

Simulation of cell rolling and adhesion on surfaces in shear flow. Microvilli-coated hard spheres with adhesive springs.

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School of Chemical Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853.


The adhesion of cells to ligand-coated surfaces in viscous shear flow is an important step in many physiological processes, such as the neutrophil-mediated inflammatory response, lymphocyte homing, and tumor cell metastasis. This article describes a calculational method that allows simulation of the interaction of a single cell with a ligand-coated surface. The cell is idealized as a microvilli-coated hard sphere covered with adhesive springs. The distribution of microvilli on the cell surface, the distribution of receptors on microvilli tips, and the forward and reverse reaction between receptor and ligand are all simulated using random number sampling of appropriate probability functions. The velocity of the cell at each time step in the simulation results from a balance of hydrodynamic, colloidal, and bonding forces; the bonding force is derived by summing the individual contributions of each receptor-ligand tether. The model can simulate the effect of many parameters on adhesion, such as the number of receptors on microvilli tips, the density of ligand, the rates of reaction between receptor and ligand, the stiffness of the springs, the response of springs to extension, and the magnitude of hydrodynamic stresses. By varying these parameters, the model can successfully recreate the entire range of expected and observed adhesive phenomena, from completely unencumbered motion, to rolling, to transient attachment, to firm adhesion. Also, the model can provide meaningful statistical measures of adhesion, including the mean and variance in velocity, rate constants for cell attachment and detachment, and the frequency of adhesion. We find a critical modulating parameter of adhesion is the fractional spring slippage, which relates the extension of a bond to its rate of breakage; the higher the slippage, the faster the breakage for the same extension. Changes in the fractional spring slippage can radically change the adhesive behavior of a cell. We show that stiffer springs will only serve to increase adhesion if the fractional slippage remains small. In addition, our simulations emphasize the importance of reaction rates between receptor and ligand, rather than affinity, as being the key determinant of adhesion under flow. These results suggest reaction rates and response to stress of adhesion molecules must be independently measured to understand how adhesion is controlled at the molecular level.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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