Neural crest cells (NCCs) are vertebrate embryonic multipotent cells that can migrate and differentiate into a wide array of cell types that give rise to various organs and tissues. Tissue stiffness produces mechanical force, a physical cue that plays a critical role in NCC differentiation; however, the mechanism remains unclear. The method described here provides detailed information for the optimized generation of polyacrylamide hydrogels of varying stiffness, the accurate measurement of such stiffness, and the evaluation of the impact of mechanical signals in O9-1 cells, a NCC line that mimics in vivo NCCs. Hydrogel stiffness was measured using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and indicated different stiffness levels accordingly. O9-1 NCCs cultured on hydrogels of varying stiffness showed different cell morphology and gene expression of stress fibers, which indicated varying biological effects caused by mechanical signal changes. Moreover, this established that varying the hydrogel stiffness resulted in an efficient in vitro system to manipulate mechanical signaling by altering gel stiffness and analyzing the molecular and genetic regulation in NCCs. O9-1 NCCs can differentiate into a wide range of cell types under the influence of the corresponding differentiation media, and it is convenient to manipulate chemical signals in vitro. Therefore, this in vitro system is a powerful tool to study the role of mechanical signaling in NCCs and its interaction with chemical signals, which will help researchers better understand the molecular and genetic mechanisms of neural crest development and diseases.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)