Adhesion of cells on biomaterials plays an essential role in modulating cellular functions. Although hydration of biomaterials occurs under biological conditions, it is challenging to systematically evaluate the correlation of hydrated water content in biomaterials with the cell adhesion strength. In this report, we investigated the effect of bound water content on the adhesion strength of cells on poly(2-methoxyethyl acrylate) (PMEA) analogue substrates. Water-insoluble PMEA analogues were synthesized to fabricate substrates with a systemically controlled bound water content. To assess the surface properties of their substrates, contact angle measurement, atomic force microscopy (AFM), and fluorescence measurement were conducted. To reflect the effect of bound water of PMEA analogues, the relationship between the bound water content and cell adhesion behavior was evaluated under serum-free condition. From the single cell force spectrometry (SCFS) and microscopic analysis, it revealed that the increment of bound water content on the substrates decreased cell adhesion strength and cell spreading on the substrates. The bound water content exhibited a good correlation with adhesion strength, spreading area, circularity, and aspect ratio of cells. Our findings indicate that the bound water content could contribute to the development of a novel biomaterial and evaluation of cell behaviors on biomaterials. Statement of significance: For coordinating cell functions, such as growth, mobility, and differentiation, modulating the adhesion strength between cells and their environments is important. Although the hydration to biomaterials has been reported to be closely related to a antifouling property, the effect of hydration water on the cell adhesion behavior is not well understood. We present the first demonstration of essential relationship between cell adhesion strength and hydrated water on a biomaterials surface using the water-insoluble polymers with different hydrated water content. The results reveal that the hydrated water content of polymer substrates strong correlation with adhesion strength of cells. Collectively, the hydrated water content of the biomaterials will be a predominant factor affecting the cell adhesion strength and behavior.
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