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Keywords:

  • microscale;
  • micropatterning;
  • outgrowth;
  • L1;
  • N-cadherin

Abstract

The ability to pattern multiple bioactive cues on a surface is valuable for understanding how neurons interact with their complex extracellular environment. In this report, we introduce a set of methods for creating such surfaces, with the goals of understanding how developing neurons integrate multiple biologically relevant signals and as a tool for studying interactions between multiple neurons. Multiple microcontact printing steps are combined on a single surface to produce an array of polylysine nodes, interconnected by lines of proteins based on the extracellular domains of L1 or N-cadherin. Surprisingly, the N-cadherin protein could also be directly printed onto surfaces while retaining its biological activity. Rat hippocampal neurons selectively attached to the polylysine nodes, differentially extending axonal and dendritic processes along the patterns of L1 and N-cadherin, thus demonstrating control over neuron attachment and outgrowth. Combining these three biomolecules on a single surface revealed a highly complex pattern of protein recognition. Dendrites extended exclusively on N-cadherin patterns, while axons exhibited a very high degree of selectivity on L1 patterns, preferentially at distances greater than 55 μm from the cell body. At shorter distances, axonal processes recognized both L1 and N-cadherin, revealing a new aspect of neuron polarity and axon specification. This onset of L1 selectivity correlated with the establishment of intracellular L1 polarity, suggesting a functional outcome of the process of neuron polarization that has implications in development of neural tissues and creation of in vitro neuron networks. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2007.