• embryonic stem cells;
  • cardiomyocytes;
  • proliferation;
  • microtopography


The niche in which stem cells reside and differentiate is a complex physicochemical microenvironment that regulates cell function. The role played by three-dimensional physical contours was studied on cell progeny derived from mouse embryonic stem cells using microtopographies created on PDMS (poly-dimethyl-siloxane) membranes. While markers of differentiation were not affected, the proliferation of heterogeneous mouse embryonic stem cell-derived progeny was attenuated by 15 μm-, but not 5 μm-high microprojections. This reduction was reversed by Rho kinase and myosin light chain kinase inhibition, which diminishes the tension generating ability of stress fibers. Purified cardiomyocytes derived from embryonic stem cells also showed significant blunting of proliferation and increased beating rates compared with cells grown on flat substrates. Thus, proliferation of stem cell-derived progeny appears to be regulated by microtopography through tension-generation of contractility in the third-dimension. These results emphasize the importance of topographic cues in the modulation of stem cell progeny behavior. Developmental Dynamics 238:1964–1973, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.