Micro-and nanofabrication techniques provide the opportunity to develop new types of cell culture platform, where the effect of various topographical cues on cellular functions such as proliferation and differentiation can be studied. In this study, PC12 cells were cultured on patterned silicon (Si) surfaces comprising arrays of microcones (MCs) exhibiting different geometrical characteristics and surface chemistries. It was illustrated that, in the absence of nerve growth factor (NGF), PC12 cells increased proliferation on all types of patterned surface, as compared to flat Si surfaces. However, in the presence of NGF, PC12 cells showed different responses, depending on the plating surface. Unlike low and intermediate rough MC surfaces, highly rough ones exhibiting large distances between MCs did not support PC12 cell differentiation, independently of the MCs’ chemical coatings. These results suggest that the geometrical characteristics of MCs alone can influence specific cellular functions. Tailoring of the physical properties of arrays of Si MCs in order to identify which combinations of MC topologies and spatially defined chemistries are capable of driving specific cellular responses is envisaged. © 2013 The Authors. Journal of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.