Infoscience

Journal article

High aspect ratio silicon nanowires control fibroblast adhesion and cytoskeleton organization

Cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions are essential to the survival and proliferation of most cells, and are responsible for triggering a wide range of biochemical pathways. More recently, the biomechanical role of those interactions was highlighted, showing, for instance, that adhesion forces are essential for cytoskeleton organization. Silicon nanowires (Si NWs) with their small size, high aspect ratio and anisotropic mechanical response represent a useful model to investigate the forces involved in the adhesion processes and their role in cellular development. In this work we explored and quantified, by single cell force spectroscopy (SCFS), the interaction of mouse embryonic fibroblasts with a flexible forest of Si NWs. We observed that the cell adhesion forces are comparable to those found on collagen and bare glass coverslip, analogously the membrane tether extraction forces are similar to that on collagen but stronger than that on bare flat glass. Cell survival did not depend significantly on the substrate, although a reduced proliferation after 36 h was observed. On the contrary both cell morphology and cytoskeleton organization revealed striking differences. The cell morphology on Si-NW was characterized by a large number of filopodia and a significant decrease of the cell mobility. The cytoskeleton organization was characterized by the absence of actin fibers, which were instead dominant on collagen and flat glass support. Such findings suggest that the mechanical properties of disordered Si NWs, and in particular their strong asymmetry, play a major role in the adhesion, morphology and cytoskeleton organization processes. Indeed, while adhesion measurements by SCFS provide out-of-plane forces values consistent with those measured on conventional substrates, weaker in-plane forces hinder proper cytoskeleton organization and migration processes.

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