On the correlation between material-induced cell shape and phenotypical response of human mesenchymal stem cells

Aliaksei S. Vasilevich, Steven Vermeulen, Marloes Kamphuis, Nadia Roumans, Said Eroumé, Dennie G. A. J. Hebels, Jeroen van de Peppel, Rika Reihs, Nick R. M. Beijer, Aurélie Carlier, Anne E. Carpenter, Shantanu Singh & Jan de Boer

Published: 1 December 2020


Learning rules by which cell shape impacts cell function would enable control of cell physiology and fate in medical applications, particularly, on the interface of cells and material of the implants. We defined the phenotypic response of human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) to 2176 randomly generated surface topographies by probing basic functions such as migration, proliferation, protein synthesis, apoptosis, and differentiation using quantitative image analysis. Clustering the surfaces into 28 archetypical cell shapes, we found a very strict correlation between cell shape and physiological response and selected seven cell shapes to describe the molecular mechanism leading to phenotypic diversity. Transcriptomics analysis revealed a tight link between cell shape, molecular signatures, and phenotype. For instance, proliferation is strongly reduced in cells with limited spreading, resulting in down-regulation of genes involved in the G2/M cycle and subsequent quiescence, whereas cells with large filopodia are related to activation of early response genes and inhibition of the osteogenic process. In this paper we were aiming to identify a universal set of genes that regulate the material-induced phenotypical response of human mesenchymal stem cells. This will allow designing implants that can actively regulate cellular, molecular signalling through cell shape. Here we are proposing an approach to tackle this question.

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