Polymer Science Faculty Research

The modulation of dendritic cell integrin binding and activation by RGD-peptide density gradient substrates

Matthew Becker


Dendritic cells (DCs) are central regulators of the immune system that operate in both innate and adaptive branches of immunity. Activation of DC by numerous factors, such as danger signals, has been well established. However, modulation of DC functions through adhesion-based cues has only begun to be characterized. In this work, DCs were cultured on surfaces presenting a uniform gradient of the integrin-targeting RGD peptide generated using the recently established "universal gradient substrate for click biofunctionalization" methodology. Surface expression of activation markers (costimulatory molecule CD86 and stimulatory molecule MHC-II) and production of cytokines IL-10 and IL-12p40 of adherent DCs was quantified in situ. Additionally, bound alpha(V) integrin was quantified in situ using a biochemical crosslinking/extraction method. Our findings demonstrate that DCs upregulated CD86, MHC-II, IL-10, IL-12p40 and alpha(V) integrin binding as a function of RGD surface density, with production of IL-12p40 being the marker most sensitive to RGD surface density. Surface expression of activation markers demonstrated moderate correlation with alpha(V) integrin binding, while cytokine production was highly correlated with alpha(V) integrin binding. This work demonstrates the utility of the surface density gradient platform as a high-throughput method to investigate RGD density-dependent DC adhesive responses. Furthermore, this quantitative analysis of DC integrin-based activation represents a first of its type, helping to establish the field of adhesion-based modulation of DCs as a general mechanism that has previously not been defined, and informs the rational design of biomimetic biomaterials for immunomodulation.