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Soft Matter. 2012;8(2):390-398. Epub 2011 Oct 26.

Hydrogels with well-defined peptide-hydrogel spacing and concentration: impact on epithelial cell behavior().

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, The University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, 53706, USA.


The spacing of peptides away from a hydrogel matrix dramatically impacts their availability and subsequent interactions with cells. Peptides were synthesized with monodisperse poly(ethylene glycol) spacers of different lengths that separate the peptide from the monomeric functionality which reacts during hydrogel polymerization. Specifically, bioactive RGD ligands were conjugated to PEG(5), PEG(11) or PEG(27) spacers via solid phase techniques and then functionalized with an acryloyl end group. These acryloyl-PEGx-RGD conjugates were then copolymerized with PEGDA to form an inert hydrogel network decorated with RGD ligands for cell interactions. As the PEG spacer length increases, the RGD concentration required to support cell attachment and spreading decreases. The competitive detachment of hTCEpi cells in the presence of soluble linear RGD also shows non-linear dependence on the PEG spacer length, as more cells remained attached and spread on gels functionalized with longer PEG-RGD conjugates in comparison to the shorter PEG-RGD conjugates. The strategy and synthetic techniques developed here allow for reproducible control over peptide-hydrogel spacing and peptide concentration, and may be extended for incorporation of multiple peptides and to other hydrogel platforms.

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