General cellular durotaxis induced with cell-scale heterogeneity of matrix-elasticity

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Stiffness-gradient-induced cellular taxis, so-called durotaxis, has been extensively studied on a substrate with a single broad or steep stiffness gradient. However, in actual living tissues, cells should sense cell-scaled heterogeneous elasticity distribution in the extracellular matrix. In this study, to clarify the effect of the cell-scale heterogeneity of matrix-elasticity on durotaxis, we examined the motility of different types of cells on microelastically-striped patterned gels with different cell-sized widths. We found that cells accumulated in stiff regions with specific width on cell-type-dependency, even when a stiffness gradient is too small to induce usual durotaxis with a monotonic stiffness gradient. Fibroblast cells accumulated in a wide stiff region of multicellular size, while mesenchymal stem cells localized in a narrow stiff region of single-cell size. It was revealed that durotactic activity is critically affected not only with the cell type but also with the cell-scale heterogeneity of matrix-elasticity. Based on the shape-fluctuation-based analysis of cell migration, the dynamics of the pseudopodia were found to play a key role in determining the behaviors of general durotaxis. Our results suggest that design of cell-scale heterogeneity of matrix-elasticity is pivotal in controlling directional cell migration, the spontaneous cell-patterning, and development of the tissue on the biomaterials surfaces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number119647
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Bioengineering
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials


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