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Fibril curvature is bioinstructive to attached cells. Similar to natural healthy tissues, an engineered extracellular matrix can be designed to stimulate cells to adopt desired phenotypes. To take full advantage of the curvature control in biomaterial fabrication methodologies, an understanding of the response to fibril subcellular curvature is required. In this work, we examined morphology, signaling, and function of human cells attached to electrospun nanofibers. We controlled curvature across an order of magnitude using nondegradable poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) attached to a stiff substrate with flat PMMA as a control. Focal adhesion length and the distance of maximum intensity from the geographic center of the vinculin positive focal adhesion both peaked at a fiber curvature of 2.5 μm-1 (both ∼2× the flat surface control). Vinculin experienced slightly less tension when attached to nanofiber substrates. Vinculin expression was also more affected by a subcellular curvature than structural proteins α-tubulin or α-actinin. Among the phosphorylation sites we examined (FAK397, 576/577, 925, and Src416), FAK925 exhibited the most dependance on the nanofiber curvature. A RhoA/ROCK dependance of migration velocity across curvatures combined with an observation of cell membrane wrapping around nanofibers suggested a hybrid of migration modes for cells attached to fibers as has been observed in 3D matrices. Careful selection of nanofiber curvature for regenerative engineering scaffolds and substrates used to study cell biology is required to maximize the potential of these techniques for scientific exploration and ultimately improvement of human health.


Humans, Tissue Scaffolds, Vinculin, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Focal Adhesions, Extracellular Matrix, Nanofibers, Tissue Engineering



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