Keratinocyte traction forces play a crucial role in wound healing. The aim of this study was to develop a novel cell traction force (CTF) transducer system based on cholesteryl ester liquid crystals (LC). Keratinocytes cultured on LC induced linear and isolated deformation lines in the LC surface. As suggested by the fluorescence staining, the deformation lines appeared to correlate with the forces generated by the contraction of circumferential actin filaments which were transmitted to the LC surface via the focal adhesions. Due to the linear viscoelastic behavior of the LC, Hooke's equation was used to quantify the CTFs by associating Young's modulus of LC to the cell induced stresses and biaxial strain in forming the LC deformation. Young's modulus of the LC was profiled by using spherical indentation and determined at approximately 87.1±17.2kPa. A new technique involving cytochalasin-B treatment was used to disrupt the intracellular force generating actin fibers, and consequently the biaxial strain in the LC induced by the cells was determined. Due to the improved sensitivity and spatial resolution (∼1μm) of the LC based CTF transducer, a wide range of CTFs was determined (10-120nN). These were found to be linearly proportional to the length of the deformations. The linear relationship of CTF-deformations was then applied in a bespoke CTF mapping software to estimate CTFs and to map CTF fields. The generated CTF map highlighted distinct distributions and different magnitude of CTFs were revealed for polarized and non-polarized keratinocytes.
Widefield surface plasmon resonance (WSPR) microscopy provides high resolution imaging of interfacial interactions. We report the application of the WSPR imaging system in the study of the interaction between keratinocytes and liquid crystals (LC). Imaging of fixed keratinocytes cultured on gold coated surface plasmon substrates functionalized with a thin film of liquid crystals was performed in air using a 1.45NA objective based system. Focal adhesion of the cells adhered to glass and LC were further studied using immunofluorescence staining of the vinculin. The imaging system was also simulated with 2×2 scattering matrix to investigate the optical reflection of the resonant plasmonic wave via the glass/gold/cell and glass/gold/LC/cell layers. WSPR imaging indicated that keratinocytes are less spread and formed distinct topography of cell-liquid crystal couplings when cultured on liquid crystal coated substrates. The simulation indicates that glass/LC shifted the surface plasmon excitation angle to 75.39° as compared to glass/air interface at 44°. The WSPR microcopy reveals that the cells remodelled their topography of adhesion at different interfaces.
This study aimed at examining the biophysical characteristics of human derived keratinocytes (HaCaT) cultured on cholesteryl ester liquid crystals (CELC). CELC was previously shown to improve sensitivity in sensing cell contractions. Characteristics of the cell integrin expressions and presence of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins on the liquid crystals were interrogated using various immunocytochemical techniques. The investigation was followed by characterization of the chemical properties of the liquid crystals (LC) after immersion in cell culture media using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The surface morphology of cells adhered to the LC was studied using atomic force microscopy (AFM). Consistent with the expressions of the integrins α2, α3 and β1, extracellular matrix proteins (laminin, collagen type IV and fibronectin) were found secreted by the HaCaT onto CELC and these proteins were also secreted by cells cultured on the glass substrates. FTIR analysis of the LC revealed the existence of spectrum assigned to cholesterol and ester moieties that are essential compounds for the metabolizing activities of keratinocytes. The immunostainings indicated that cell adhesion on the LC is mediated by self-secreted ECM proteins. As revealed by the AFM imaging, the constraint in cell membrane spread on the LC leads to the increase in cell surface roughness and thickness of cell membrane. The biophysical expressions of cells on biocompatible CELC suggested that CELC could be a new class of biological relevant material.