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J Neural Eng. 2009 Feb;6(1):016002. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/6/1/016002. Epub 2008 Dec 22.

Neurite outgrowth at the interface of 2D and 3D growth environments.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology and Center for Biomedical Engineering, Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.


Growing neurons navigate complex environments, but in vitro systems for studying neuronal growth typically limit the cues to flat surfaces or a single type of cue, thereby limiting the resulting growth. Here we examined the growth of neurons presented with two-dimensional (2D) substrate-bound cues when these cues were presented in conjunction with a more complex three-dimensional (3D) architecture. Dorsal root ganglia (DRG) explants were cultured at the interface between a collagen I matrix and a glass coverslip. Laminin (LN) or chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans (CSPG) were uniformly coated on the surface of the glass coverslip or patterned in 50 microm tracks by microcontact printing. Quantitative analysis of neurite outgrowth with a novel grid system at multiple depths in the gel revealed several interesting trends. Most of the neurites extended at the surface of the gel when LN was presented whereas more neurites extended into the gel when CSPG was presented. Patterning of cues did not affect neurite density or depth of growth. However, neurite outgrowth near the surface of the gel aligned with LN patterns, and these extensions were significantly longer than neurites extended in other cultures. In interface cultures, DRG growth patterns varied with the type of cue where neurite density was higher in cultures presenting LN than in cultures presenting CSPG. These results represent an important step toward understanding how neurons integrate local structural and chemical cues to make net growth decisions.

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