A biophysical evaluation of cell-substrate interactions during spreading, migration and neuron differentiation

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The development of engineered scaffolds has become a popular current avenue to treat numerous traumas and disease. In order to optimize the efficiency of these treatments, it is necessary to have a more thorough understanding of how cells interact with their substrate and how these interactions directly affect cellular behavior. Cell spreading is a critical component of numerous biological phenomena, including embryonic development, cancer metastasis, immune response, and wound healing. Along with spreading, cell adhesion and migration are all strongly dependent on the interactions between the cell and its substrate. Cell-substrate interactions can affect critical cellular mechanisms including internal cellular signaling, protein synthesis, differentiation, and replication and also influence the magnitude of adherence and motility. In an effort to better understand cell-substrate interactions we characterize the initial stages of cell spreading and blebbing using cell-substrate specific microscopy techniques, and identify the effects of cytoskeletal disruption and membrane modification on surface interactions and spreading. We identify that blebs appear after a sharp change in cellular tension, such as following rapid cell-substrate detachment with trypsin. An increased lag phase of spreading appears with increased blebbing; however, blebbing can be tuned by supplying the cell with more time to perform plasma membrane recycling. We developed software algorithms to detect individual bleb dynamics from TIRF and IRM images, and characterize three types of bleb-adhesion behaviors. Overall, we show that blebs initially create the first adhesion sites for the cell during spreading; however, their continuous protrusion and retraction events contribute to the slow spreading period prior to fast growth. In addition, we identify the elastic modulus of the rat cortex and characterize a polyacrylamide gel system that evaluates the effects of substrate stiffness on cortical outgrowth. Remarkably, we illustrate that cortical neuron differentiation and outgrowth are insensitive to substrate stiffness, and observe only morphological differences between laminin versus PDL-coated substrates. Together, this research identifies cell-specific behaviors critical to spreading and migration. The thorough evaluations of spreading and migration behavior presented here contribute to the understanding of critical cellular phenomena and suggest potential therapeutic targets for treatment of cardiovascular disease and neurological disorders.