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Langmuir. 2016 Jan 26;32(3):800-9. doi: 10.1021/acs.langmuir.5b03259. Epub 2016 Jan 7.

Lateral Chain Length in Polyalkyl Acrylates Determines the Mobility of Fibronectin at the Cell/Material Interface.

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Division of Biomedical Engineering, School of Engineering, University of Glasgow , Glasgow G12 8LT, United Kingdom.
Centre for Cell Engineering, Institute for Molecular, Cell and Systems Biology, University of Glasgow , Glasgow G12 8LT, United Kingdom.


Cells, by interacting with surfaces indirectly through a layer of extracellular matrix proteins, can respond to a variety of physical properties, such as topography or stiffness. Polymer surface mobility is another physical property that is less well understood but has been indicated to hold the potential to modulate cell behavior. Polymer mobility is related to the glass-transition temperature (Tg) of the system, the point at which a polymer transitions from an amorphous solid to a more liquid-like state. This work shows that changes in polymer mobility translate to interfacial mobility of extracellular matrix proteins adsorbed on the material surface. This study has utilized a family of polyalkyl acrylates with similar chemistry but different degrees of mobility, obtained through increasing length of the side chain. These materials are used, in conjunction with fluorescent fibronectin, to determine the mobility of this interfacial layer of protein that constitutes the initial cell-material interface. Furthermore, the extent of fibronectin domain availability (III9, III10, - the integrin binding site), cell-mediated reorganization, and cell differentiation was also determined. A nonmonotonic dependence of fibronectin mobility on polymer surface mobility was observed, with a similar trend noted in cell-mediated reorganization of the protein layer by L929 fibroblasts. The availability of the integrin-binding site was higher on the more mobile surfaces, where a similar organization of the protein into networks at the material interface was observed. Finally, differentiation of C2C12 myoblasts was seen to be highly sensitive to surface mobility upon inhibition of cell contractility. Altogether, these findings show that polymer mobility is a subtle influence that translates to the cell/material interface through the protein layer to alter the biological activity of the surface.

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