ABSTRACT: Stem cell adhesion is mediated via the binding of integrin receptors to adhesion motifs present in the extracellular matrix (ECM). The spatial organization of adhesion ligands plays
an important role in stem cell integrin-mediated adhesion. In this study, we developed a series of biointerfaces using arginine−glycine−aspartate (RGD)-functionalized mesoporous silica nano-
particles (MSN-RGD) to study the effect of RGD adhesion ligand global density (ligand coverage over the surface), spacing, and RGD clustering levels on stem cell adhesion and differentiation. To
prepare the biointerface, MSNs were chemically functionalized with RGD peptides via an antifouling poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) linker. The RGD surface functionalization ratio could be controlled to create MSNs with high and low RGD ligand clustering levels. MSN films with varying RGD global densities could be created by blending different ratios of MSN-RGD and non-RGD-
functionalized MSNs together. A computational simulation study was performed to analyze nanoparticle distribution and RGD spacing on the resulting surfaces to determine experimental conditions. Enhanced cell adhesion and spreading were observed when RGD global density increased from 1.06 to 5.32 nmol cm−2 using highly clustered RGD-MSN-based films. Higher RGD ligand clustering levels led to larger cell spreading and increased formation of focal adhesions. Moreover, a higher RGD ligand clustering level promoted the expression of alkaline phosphatase in hMSCs. Overall, these findings indicate that both RGD global density and clustering levels are crucial variables in regulating stem cell behaviors. This study provides important information about ligand− integrin interactions, which could be implemented into biomaterial design to achieve optimal performance of adhesive functional peptides.
KEYWORDS: global ligand density, ligand clustering level, biointerfaces, mesoporous silica nanoparticles, mesenchymal stem cell adhesion,
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