Neural cell alignment by patterning gradients of the extracellular matrix protein laminin

Beatrice Chelli, Marianna Barbalinardo, Francesco Valle, Pierpaolo Greco, Eva Bystrenova, Michele Bianchi, Fabio Biscarini

Interface focus 2014, 4(1), 20130041.


Anisotropic orientation and accurate positioning of neural cells is achieved by patterning stripes of the extracellular matrix protein laminin on the surface of polystyrene tissue culture dishes by micromoulding in capillaries (MIMICs). Laminin concentration decreases from the entrance of the channels in contact with the reservoir towards the end. Immunofluorescence analysis of laminin shows a decreasing gradient of concentration along the longitudinal direction of the stripes. The explanation is the superposition of diffusion and convection of the solute, the former dominating at length scales near the entrance (characteristic length around 50 μm), the latter further away (length scale in excess of 900 μm). These length scales are independent of the channel width explored from about 15 to 45 μm. Neural cells are randomly seeded and selectively adhere to the pattern, leaving the unpatterned areas depleted even upon 6 days of incubation. Cell alignment was assessed by the orientation of the long axis of the 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole-stained nuclei. Samples on patterned the laminin area exhibit a large orientational order parameter. As control, cells on the unpatterned laminin film exhibit no preferential orientation. This implies that the anisotropy of laminin stripes is an effective chemical stimulus for cell recruiting and alignment.