• corneal epithelial cell;
  • layer-by-layer;
  • RGD;
  • D-glucamine;
  • attachment;
  • proliferation


Our study demonstrates that substrates fabricated using a “reactive” layer-by-layer approach promote well-defined cell–substrate interactions of human corneal epithelial cells. Specifically, crosslinked and amine-reactive polymer multilayers were produced by alternating “reactive” deposition of an azlactone-functionalized polymer [poly(2-vinyl-4,4-dimethylazlactone)] (PVDMA) and a primary amine-containing polymer [branched poly(ethylene imine)] (PEI). Advantages of our system include a 5- to 30-fold decrease in deposition time compared to traditional polyelectrolyte films and direct modification of the films with peptides. Our films react with mixtures of an adhesion-promoting peptide containing Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) and the small molecule D-glucamine, a chemical motif which is nonfouling. Resulting surfaces prevent protein adsorption and promote cell attachment through specific peptide interactions. The specificity of cell attachment via immobilized RGD sequences was verified using both a scrambled RDG peptide control as well as soluble-RGD competitive assays. Films were functionalized with monotonically increasing surface densities of RGD which resulted in both increased cell attachment and the promotion of a tri-phasic proliferative response of a human corneal epithelial cell line (hTCEpi). The ability to treat PEI/PVDMA films with peptides for controlled cell–substrate interactions enables the use of these films in a wide range of biological applications. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A:, 2012.