Flexible polymer nanopillar substrates were used to systematically demonstrate cell alignment and migration guided by the directional formation of focal adhesions. The polymer nanopillar substrates were constructed to various height specifications to provide an extensive variation of flexibility; a rectangular arrangement created spatial confinement between adjacent nanopillars, providing less spacing in the horizontal and vertical directions. Three polymer nanopillar substrates with the diameter of 400 nm and the heights of 400, 800, and 1200 nm were fabricated. Super-resolution localization imaging and protein pair-distance analysis of vinculin proteins revealed that Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells formed mature focal adhesions on 1200 nm high nanopillar substrates by bending adjacent nanopillars to link dot-like adhesions. The spacing confinement of the adjacent nanopillars enhanced the orthogonal directionality of the formation tendency of the mature focal adhesions. The directional formation of the mature focal adhesions also facilitated the organization of actin filaments in the horizontal and vertical directions. Moreover, 78% of the CHO cells were aligned in these two directions, in conformity with the flexibility and nanotopographical cues of the nanopillars. Biased cell migration was observed on the 1200 nm high nanopillar substrates.
- cell adhesion
- cell migration
- polymer nanopillar
- protein pair-distance analysis
- super-resolution localization microscopy