Extracellular matrix molecules provide biochemical and topographical cues that influence cell growth in vivo and in vitro. Effects of topographical cues on hippocampal neuron growth were examined after 14 days in vitro. Neurons from hippocampi of rat embryos were grown on poly-L-lysine-coated silicon surfaces containing fields of pillars with varying geometries. Photolithography was used to fabricate 1 μm high pillar arrays with different widths and spacings. βIII-tubulin and MAP-2 immunocytochemistry and scanning electron microscopy were used to describe neuronal processes. Automated two-dimensional tracing software quantified process orientation and length. Process growth on smooth surfaces was random, while growth on pillared surfaces exhibited the most faithful alignment to pillar geometries with smallest gap sizes. Neurite lengths were significantly longer on pillars with the smallest inter-pillar spacings (gaps) and 2 μm pillar widths. These data indicate that physical cues affect neuron growth, suggesting that extracellular matrix topography may contribute to cell growth and differentiation. These results demonstrate new strategies for directing and promoting neuronal growth that will facilitate studies of synapse formation and function and provide methods to establish defined neural networks.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biomedical Engineering
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience