This systematic study clarified a few interfacial aspects of cancer cell phenotypes on polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) substrates and indicated that the cell phenotypic equilibrium greatly responds to cell-to-surface interactions. We demonstrated that coatings of fibronectin, bovine serum albumin (BSA), or collagen with or without oxygen-plasma treatments of the PDMS surfaces dramatically impacted the phenotypic equilibrium of breast cancer stem cells, while the variations of the PDMS elastic stiffness had much less such effects. Our results showed that the surface coatings of collagen and fibronectin on PDMS maintained breast cancer cell phenotypes to be nearly identical to the cultures on commercial polystyrene Petri dishes. The surface coating of BSA provided a weak cell-substrate adhesion that stimulated the increase in stem-cell-like subpopulation. Our observations may potentially guide surface modification approaches to obtain specific cell phenotypes.
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