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Micrometer scale spacings between fibronectin nanodots regulate cell morphology and focal adhesions
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Cell adhesion to extracellular matrix is an important process for both health and disease states. Surface protein patterns that are topographically flat, and do not introduce other chemical, topographical or rigidity related functionality and, more importantly, that mimic the organization of the in vivo extracellular matrix are desired. Previous work showed that vinculin and cytoskeletal organization are modulated by size and shape of surface nanopatterns. However, quantitative analysis on cell morphology and focal adhesions as a function of micrometer scale spacings of FN nanopatterns was absent. Here, electron beam lithography was used to pattern fibronectin nanodots with micrometer scale spacings on a Kcasein background on indium tin oxide coated glass which, unlike silicon, is transparent and thus suitable for many light microscopy techniques. Exposure times were significantly reduced using the line exposure mode with micrometer scale step sizes. Micrometer scale spacings of 2, 4 and 8 m between fibronectin nanodots proved to modulate cell adhesion through modification of cell area, focal adhesion number, size and circularity. Overall, cell behavior was shown to shift at the apparent threshold of 4 m spacing. The findings presented here offer exciting new opportunities for cell biology research.