The Effect of Size and Geometry of Poly(acrylamide) Brush-Based Micropatterns on the Behavior of Cells

In this study, the fabrication, detailed characterization, and application of long-term stable micropatterned bio-interfaces of passivating poly­(acrylamide) (PAAm) brushes on transparent gold for application in the study of cell-surface interactions is reported. The micropatterns were fabricated by microcontact printing of an initiator for surface-initiated atom transfer radical polymerization (SI-ATRP), SI-ATRP of acrylamide, and subsequently backfilling of the unfunctionalized areas of 400–2500 μm<sup>2</sup> size and systematically altered number of corners with octadecanethiol. As verified by surface plasmon resonance spectroscopy, the physisorption of fibronectin (FN) was restricted to the adhesive areas. Exploiting this platform, the effect of micropattern geometry and size of cell-adhesive FN areas surrounded by passivating PAAm brushes on transparent gold substrates on the attachment of cells and cytoskeleton alignment was investigated at the single-cell level. Exceptional long-term stability of the patterned PAAm brushes and arrays of adhesive areas, in which human pancreatic tumor cells (Patu 8988T) and fibroblast cells (NIH 3T3) were confined for more than one week, was observed. Adhesive areas of 1600 μm<sup>2</sup> or less constrained the cell shape and caused focal adhesions to accumulate in the corners of the pattern. These changes were most obvious for the PatuT cells in adhesive areas of ∼900 μm<sup>2</sup>, in which the actin filaments were aligned, following the boundary of the pattern, and merged in the focal adhesions concentrated in the corners of the pattern. NIH 3T3 cells possessed a larger cell area, which led to an optimal cytoskeleton alignment in adhesive patterns of ∼1600 μm<sup>2</sup>. The alignment of the cytoskeleton was found to be less pronounced in cells on larger adhesive areas, where the PatuT cells spread similarly to cells on unpatterned substrates. By contrast, the NIH 3T3 cells were found to stretch even on larger adhesive areas, spanning from one corner to the other. The long-term stability under cell culture conditions of the patterns introduced here will also be useful for long-term studies of single and multiple cells, cell motility in toxicity assays, and stem cell differentiation.