Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Faculty Research


Endothelial Cell Migration on Surface-density Gradients of Fibronectin, Vegf, or Both Proteins

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2007


Cell migration is essential to many physiological processes, including angiogenesis, which is critical to the success of implanted biomaterials and tissue-engineered constructs. Gradients play an important role in cell migration. Previous work on cell migration has been mostly executed either in the concentration gradients of stimuli (e.g., VEGF) in bulk or hydrogels or on the surface-density gradients of ECM proteins (e.g., fibronectin) or small ligands (e.g., RGD). Little work has been done to investigate how cell migration responds to the surface-density gradients of growth factors. No work has been done to study how the surface gradients of both adhesive proteins and growth factors influence cell migration. In this work, we studied the effect of the surface-density gradients of fibronectin (FN), VEGF, or both proteins on endothelial cell migration. Gradients with different slopes were prepared to study how the gradient slope affects cell migration. The gradients were generated by first forming a counter-propagating C15COOH/C11OH self-assembled monolayer (SAM) gradient using a surface electrochemistry approach, followed by activating the −COOH moieties and covalently immobilizing proteins onto the surface. Fourier transform infrared spectra and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy were used to characterize the SAM and protein gradients, respectively. A free cell migration assay using bovine aortic endothelial cells was performed on various gradient surfaces or on surfaces with uniform protein density. Results showed that cells on the surface-density gradients of FN, VEGF, or both proteins moved faster along the gradient direction than on the respective uniform control surface after 24-h cell culture. It is also shown that for each protein or protein combination, the directional cell displacement was not statistically different between two gradients with different slopes. Results show that the directional cell migration was increased by about 2-fold on the VEGF gradient as compared to the FN gradient and was further increased by another 2-fold on the combined gradients of both proteins as compared to the VEGF gradient alone. This is the first work to create surface-density gradients of VEGF and the first study to generate a combined surface gradient of growth factor and ECM protein to investigate their effect on cell migration on surfaces. This work broadens our understanding of the directional movement of endothelial cells. Our findings provide useful information for directing cell migration into tissue-engineered constructs and can be potentially used for those applications where cell migration is critical, such as angiogenesis.





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