Biophysical Chemistry 94 (2001) 275–283
0301-4622/01/$ - see front matter ᮊ 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Substratum nanotopography and the adhesion of biological cells.
Are symmetry or regularity of nanotopography important?
A.S.G. Curtis *, B. Casey , J.O. Gallagher , D. Pasqui , M.A. Wood , C.D.W. Wilkinson
a, baca b
Centre for Cell Engineering, IBLS, University of Glasgow, Joseph Black Building, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK
Department of Electronics & Electrical Engineering, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
CRISMA, Universita degli Studi di Siena, Siena, Italy
Received 17 July 2001; received in revised form 2 November 2001; accepted 8 November 2001
Animal cells live in environments where many of the features that surround them are on the nanoscale, for example
detail on collagen molecules. Do cells react to objects of this size and if so, what features of the molecules are they
responding to? Here we show, by fabricating nanometric features in silica and by casting reverse features in
polycaprolactone and culturing vertebrate cells in culture upon them, that cells react in their adhesion to the features.
With cliffs, adhesion is enhanced at the cliff edge, while pits or pillars in ordered arrays diminish adhesion. The
results implicate ordered topography and possibly symmetry effects in the adhesion of cells. Parallel results were
obtained in the adhesion of carboxylate-surfaced 2-mm-diameter particles to these surfaces. These results are in
agreement with recent predictions from non-biological nanometric systems. ᮊ 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights
Keywords: Nanotopography; Adhesion; Symmetry and regularity; Cell behaviour
Cells in the animal body live in an environment
in which there is much nanostructure around the
cells, provided by components such as collagen
fibrils (topographic features reported for example
) with their 66-nm repeat beading, as well
as that provided by the surfaces of adjacent cells.
In this paper, we report that when equivalents and
simplifications of such biological nanostructures
* Corresponding author. Tel.: q44-141-330-5147; fax: q
E-mail address: email@example.com (A.S.G. Curtis).
are fabricated in silica or various polymers, the
cells react by marked changes in adhesion, which
appear to depend on the symmetry and spacing of
the nanofeatures. Not only is this of potential
practical importance to the design of prostheses
and devices for handling cells, but it also raises
questions about the features of interfacial forces
that are involved in cell adhesion.
Much work has been carried out on the reactions
of cells to micrometric topography
many cellular features, such as shape, movement,
phagocytosis and gene expression, have been relat-
ed to the substratum micrometric topography. Little