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by Keyword: Gradient

Pallares, ME, Pi-Jauma, I, Fortunato, IC, Grazu, V, Gomez-Gonzalez, M, Roca-Cusachs, P, de la Fuente, JM, Alert, R, Sunyer, R, Casademunt, J, Trepat, X, (2023). Stiffness-dependent active wetting enables optimal collective cell durotaxis Nature Physics 19, 279-289

The directed migration of cellular clusters enables morphogenesis, wound healing and collective cancer invasion. Gradients of substrate stiffness direct the migration of cellular clusters in a process called collective durotaxis, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Here we unveil a connection between collective durotaxis and the wetting properties of cellular clusters. We show that clusters of cancer cells dewet soft substrates and wet stiff ones. At intermediate stiffness-at the crossover from low to high wettability-clusters on uniform-stiffness substrates become maximally motile, and clusters on stiffness gradients exhibit optimal durotaxis. Durotactic velocity increases with cluster size, stiffness gradient and actomyosin activity. We demonstrate this behaviour on substrates coated with the cell-cell adhesion protein E-cadherin and then establish its generality on substrates coated with extracellular matrix. We develop an active wetting model that explains collective durotaxis in terms of a balance between in-plane active traction and tissue contractility and out-of-plane surface tension. Finally, we show that the distribution of cluster displacements has a heavy tail, with infrequent but large cellular hops that contribute to durotactic migration. Our study demonstrates a physical mechanism of collective durotaxis, through both cell-cell and cell-substrate adhesion ligands, based on the wetting properties of active droplets.

JTD Keywords: Adhesion, Dynamics, E-cadherin, Gradient, Migration, Model, Motility, Movements, Rigidity, Substrate stiffness


Altay G, Abad-Lázaro A, Gualda EJ, Folch J, Insa C, Tosi S, Hernando-Momblona X, Batlle E, Loza-Álvarez P, Fernández-Majada V, Martinez E, (2022). Modeling Biochemical Gradients In Vitro to Control Cell Compartmentalization in a Microengineered 3D Model of the Intestinal Epithelium Advanced Healthcare Materials 11, 2201172

Gradients of signaling pathways within the intestinal stem cell (ISC) niche are instrumental for cellular compartmentalization and tissue function, yet how are they sensed by the epithelium is still not fully understood. Here a new in vitro model of the small intestine based on primary epithelial cells (i), apically accessible (ii), with native tissue mechanical properties and controlled mesh size (iii), 3D villus-like architecture (iv), and precisely controlled biomolecular gradients of the ISC niche (v) is presented. Biochemical gradients are formed through hydrogel-based scaffolds by free diffusion from a source to a sink chamber. To confirm the establishment of spatiotemporally controlled gradients, light-sheet fluorescence microscopy and in-silico modeling are employed. The ISC niche biochemical gradients coming from the stroma and applied along the villus axis lead to the in vivo-like compartmentalization of the proliferative and differentiated cells, while changing the composition and concentration of the biochemical factors affects the cellular organization along the villus axis. This novel 3D in vitro intestinal model derived from organoids recapitulates both the villus-like architecture and the gradients of ISC biochemical factors, thus opening the possibility to study in vitro the nature of such gradients and the resulting cellular response.© 2022 The Authors. Advanced Healthcare Materials published by Wiley-VCH GmbH.

JTD Keywords: 3d architectures, biomolecular gradients, colon, crypt, engineering organoids, hydrogels, identification, in silico modeling, intestinal stem cell niches, light sheet fluorescence microscopy, niche, permeability, photolithography, regeneration, villus, wnt, 3d architectures, Biomolecular gradients, Engineering organoids, In silico modeling, Intestinal stem cell niches, Light sheet fluorescence microscopy, Photolithography, Stem-cell


López-Canosa, Adrián, Pérez-Amodio, Soledad, Engel, Elisabeth, Castaño, Oscar, (2022). Microfluidic 3D Platform to Evaluate Endothelial Progenitor Cell Recruitment by Bioactive Materials Acta Biomaterialia 151, 264-277

Most of the conventional in vitro models to test biomaterial-driven vascularization are too simplistic to recapitulate the complex interactions taking place in the actual cell microenvironment, which results in a poor prediction of the in vivo performance of the material. However, during the last decade, cell culture models based on microfluidic technology have allowed attaining unprecedented levels of tissue biomimicry. In this work, we propose a microfluidic-based 3D model to evaluate the effect of bioactive biomaterials capable of releasing signalling cues (such as ions or proteins) in the recruitment of endogenous endothelial progenitor cells, a key step in the vascularization process. The usability of the platform is demonstrated using experimentally-validated finite element models and migration and proliferation studies with rat endothelial progenitor cells (rEPCs) and bone marrow-derived rat mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-rMSCs). As a proof of concept of biomaterial evaluation, the response of rEPCs to an electrospun composite made of polylactic acid with calcium phosphates nanoparticles (PLA+CaP) was compared in a co-culture microenvironment with BM-rMSC to a regular PLA control. Our results show a significantly higher rEPCs migration and the upregulation of several pro-inflammatory and proangiogenic proteins in the case of the PLA+CaP. The effects of osteopontin (OPN) on the rEPCs migratory response were also studied using this platform, suggesting its important role in mediating their recruitment to a calcium-rich microenvironment. This new tool could be applied to screen the capacity of a variety of bioactive scaffolds to induce vascularization and accelerate the preclinical testing of biomaterials. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: : For many years researchers have used neovascularization models to evaluate bioactive biomaterials both in vitro, with low predictive results due to their poor biomimicry and minimal control over cell cues such as spatiotemporal biomolecule signaling, and in vivo models, presenting drawbacks such as being highly costly, time-consuming, poor human extrapolation, and ethically controversial. We describe a compact microphysiological platform designed for the evaluation of proangiogenesis in biomaterials through the quantification of the level of sprouting in a mimicked endothelium able to react to gradients of biomaterial-released signals in a fibrin-based extracellular matrix. This model is a useful tool to perform preclinical trustworthy studies in tissue regeneration and to better understand the different elements involved in the complex process of vascularization.Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

JTD Keywords: angiogenesis, bioactive materials, bone regeneration, bone-formation, calcium-phosphate, extracellular calcium, in-vitro, interstitial flow, ion release, microfluidic model, signalling gradient, substitutes, tissue engineering, vascularization, vegf, Ion release, Mesenchymal stem-cells, Tissue engineering, Vascularization


Comelles J, Castillo-Fernández Ó, Martínez E, (2022). How to Get Away with Gradients Advances In Experimental Medicine And Biology 1379, 31-54

Biomolecular gradients are widely present in multiple biological processes. Historically they were reproduced in vitro by using micropipettes, Boyden and Zigmond chambers, or hydrogels. Despite the great utility of these setups in the study of gradient-related problems such as chemotaxis, they face limitations when trying to translate more complex in vivo-like scenarios to in vitro systems. In the last 20 years, the advances in manufacturing of micromechanical systems (MEMS) had opened the possibility of applying this technology to biology (BioMEMS). In particular, microfluidics has proven extremely efficient in setting-up biomolecular gradients which are stable, controllable, reproducible and at length scales that are relevant to cells. In this chapter, we give an overview of different methods to generate molecular gradients using microfluidics, then we discuss the different steps of the pipeline to fabricate a gradient generator microfluidic device, and at the end, we show an application example of the fabrication of a microfluidic device that can be used to generate a surface-bound biomolecular gradient.© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

JTD Keywords: biomems, gradient, microfluidics, model, nanotechnology, proteins, Biomems, Gradient, Mechanisms, Microfabrication, Microfluidics, Nanotechnology


Castaño O, López-Mengual A, Reginensi D, Matamoros-Angles A, Engel E, del Rio JA, (2021). Chemotactic TEG3 Cells’ Guiding Platforms Based on PLA Fibers Functionalized With the SDF-1α/CXCL12 Chemokine for Neural Regeneration Therapy Frontiers In Bioengineering And Biotechnology 9, 627805

(Following spinal cord injury, olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC) transplantation is a promising therapeutic approach in promoting functional improvement. Some studies report that the migratory properties of OECs are compromised by inhibitory molecules and potentiated by chemical concentration differences. Here we compare the attachment, morphology, and directionality of an OEC-derived cell line, TEG3 cells, seeded on functionalized nanoscale meshes of Poly(l/dl-lactic acid; PLA) nanofibers. The size of the nanofibers has a strong effect on TEG3 cell adhesion and migration, with the PLA nanofibers having a 950 nm diameter being the ones that show the best results. TEG3 cells are capable of adopting a bipolar morphology on 950 nm fiber surfaces, as well as a highly dynamic behavior in migratory terms. Finally, we observe that functionalized nanofibers, with a chemical concentration increment of SDF-1α/CXCL12, strongly enhance the migratory characteristics of TEG3 cells over inhibitory substrates.

JTD Keywords: cell migration, cxcl12, electrospinning, gradients, pla nanofibers, sdf-1alpha, Cell migration, Cxcl12, Electrospinning, Gradients, Olfactory ensheathing cells, Pla nanofibers, Sdf-1alpha


Trebicka J, Bork P, Krag A, Arumugam M, (2021). Utilizing the gut microbiome in decompensated cirrhosis and acute-on-chronic liver failure Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology 18, 167-180

© 2020, Springer Nature Limited. The human gut microbiome has emerged as a major player in human health and disease. The liver, as the first organ to encounter microbial products that cross the gut epithelial barrier, is affected by the gut microbiome in many ways. Thus, the gut microbiome might play a major part in the development of liver diseases. The common end stage of liver disease is decompensated cirrhosis and the further development towards acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF). These conditions have high short-term mortality. There is evidence that translocation of components of the gut microbiota, facilitated by different pathogenic mechanisms such as increased gut epithelial permeability and portal hypertension, is an important driver of decompensation by induction of systemic inflammation, and thereby also ACLF. Elucidating the role of the gut microbiome in the aetiology of decompensated cirrhosis and ACLF deserves further investigation and improvement; and might be the basis for development of diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. In this Review, we focus on the possible pathogenic, diagnostic and therapeutic role of the gut microbiome in decompensation of cirrhosis and progression to ACLF.

JTD Keywords: albumin, decreases intestinal permeability, hepatic-encephalopathy, portal-vein thrombosis, rifaximin improves, secondary bile-acids, systemic inflammation, translocation, venous-pressure gradient, Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis


Campillo, N., Falcones, B., Otero, J., Colina, R., Gozal, D., Navajas, D., Farré, R., Almendros, I., (2019). Differential oxygenation in tumor microenvironment modulates macrophage and cancer cell crosstalk: Novel experimental settingand proof of concept Frontiers in Oncology 9, 43

Hypoxia is a common characteristic of many solid tumors that has been associated with tumor aggressiveness. Limited diffusion of oxygen generates a gradient of oxygen availability from the blood vessel to the interstitial space and may underlie the recruitment of macrophages fostering cancer progression. However, the available data based on the recruitment of circulating cells to the tumor microenvironment has been so far carried out by conventional co-culture systems which ignore the hypoxic gradient between the vessel to the tumor interstitium. Here, we have designed a novel easy-to-build cell culture device that enables evaluation of cellular cross-talk and cell migration while they are being simultaneously exposed to different oxygenation environments. As a proof-of-concept of the potential role of differential oxygenation among interacting cells we have evaluated the activation and recruitment of macrophages in response to hypoxic melanoma, breast, and kidney cancer cells. We found that hypoxic melanoma and breast cancer cells co-cultured with normoxic macrophages enhanced their directional migration. By contrast, hypoxic kidney cells were not able to increase their recruitment. We also identified well-described hypoxia-induced pathways which could contribute in the immune cell recruitment (VEGFA and PTGS2 genes). Moreover, melanoma and breast cancer increased their proliferation. However, oxygenation levels affected neither kidney cancer cell proliferation nor gene expression, which in turn resulted in no significant changes in macrophage migration and polarization. Therefore, the cell culture device presented here provides an excellent opportunity for researchers to reproduce the in vivo hypoxic gradients in solid tumors and to study their role in recruiting circulating cells to the tumor in specific types of cancer.

JTD Keywords: Hypoxia gradient, Macrophage motility, Models of host-tumor interactions, Novel assay technology, Tumor progression


Ojosnegros', Samuel, Cutrale, Francesco, Rodríguez, Daniel, Otterstrom, Jason J., Chiu, Chi Li, Hortigüela, Verónica, Tarantino, Carolina, Seriola', Anna, Mieruszynski, Stephen, Martínez, Elena, Lakadamyali, Melike, Raya, Angel, Fraser, Scott E., (2017). Eph-ephrin signaling modulated by polymerization and condensation of receptors Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114, (50), 13188-13193

Eph receptor signaling plays key roles in vertebrate tissue boundary formation, axonal pathfinding, and stem cell regeneration by steering cells to positions defined by its ligand ephrin. Some of the key events in Eph-ephrin signaling are understood: ephrin binding triggers the clustering of the Eph receptor, fostering transphosphorylation and signal transduction into the cell. However, a quantitative and mechanistic understanding of how the signal is processed by the recipient cell into precise and proportional responses is largely lacking. Studying Eph activation kinetics requires spatiotemporal data on the number and distribution of receptor oligomers, which is beyond the quantitative power offered by prevalent imaging methods. Here we describe an enhanced fluorescence fluctuation imaging analysis, which employs statistical resampling to measure the Eph receptor aggregation distribution within each pixel of an image. By performing this analysis over time courses extending tens of minutes, the information-rich 4D space (x, y, oligomerization, time) results were coupled to straightforward biophysical models of protein aggregation. This analysis reveals that Eph clustering can be explained by the combined contribution of polymerization of receptors into clusters, followed by their condensation into far larger aggregates. The modeling reveals that these two competing oligomerization mechanisms play distinct roles: polymerization mediates the activation of the receptor by assembling monomers into 6- to 8-mer oligomers; condensation of the preassembled oligomers into large clusters containing hundreds of monomers dampens the signaling. We propose that the polymerization–condensation dynamics creates mechanistic explanation for how cells properly respond to variable ligand concentrations and gradients.

JTD Keywords: Eph, Ephrin, Receptor tyrosine kinase, Gradients, Cell communication


Lagunas, Anna, Martinez, Elena, Samitier, Josep, (2015). Surface-bound molecular gradients for the high throughput screening of cell responses Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology 3, Article 132

Chemical gradient surfaces are described as surfaces with a gradually varying composition along their length. Continuous chemical gradients have recently been proposed as alternative to discrete microarrays for the high throughput screening of the effects of ligand concentration in cells. Here we review some of the most recent examples in which gradients have been used to evaluate the effect of a varying ligand concentration in cell adhesion, morphology, growth and differentiation of cells, including some of our recent findings. They show the importance of the organization of ligands at the nanoscale, which is highlighted by abrupt changes in cell behavior at critical concentration thresholds.

JTD Keywords: Cell Adhesion, Cell Differentiation, Cell growth, Cell morphology, Molecular gradient


Comelles, J., Hortigüela, V., Martínez, Elena, Riveline, D., (2015). Methods for rectifying cell motions in vitro: Breaking symmetry using microfabrication and microfluidics Methods in Cell Biology - Biophysical Methods in Cell Biology (ed. Wilson, L., Tran, P.), Academic Press (Santa Barbara, USA) 125, 437-452

Cell motility is an important phenomenon in cell biology, developmental biology, and cancer. Here we report methods that we designed to identify and characterize external factors which direct cell motions by breaking locally the symmetry. We used microfabrication and microfluidics techniques to impose and combine mechanical and chemical cues to moving fibroblasts. Gradients can thereby be engineered at the cellular scale and this approach has allowed to disentangle roles of the nucleus and protrusion activity in setting cell directions.

JTD Keywords: Adhesion, Biological physics, Cell motility, Gradient, Ratchet


Lagunas, Anna , Comelles, Jordi, Martínez, Elena, Prats-Alfonso, Elisabet , Acosta, Gerardo A., Albericio, Fernando , Samitier, Josep , (2012). Cell adhesion and focal contact formation on linear RGD molecular gradients: study of non-linear concentration dependence effects Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine , 8, (4), 432-439

Cell adhesion onto bioengineered surfaces is affected by a number of variables, including the former substrate derivatization process. In this investigation, we studied the correlation between cell adhesion and cell–adhesive ligand surface concentration and organization due to substrate modification. For this purpose, Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) gradient surfaces were created on poly(methyl methacrylate) substrates by continuous hydrolysis and were then grafted with biotin-PEG-RGD molecules. Cell culture showed that adhesion behavior changes in a nonlinear way in the narrow range of RGD surface densities assayed (2.8 to 4.4 pmol/cm2), with a threshold value of 4.0 pmol/cm2 for successful cell attachment and spreading. This nonlinear dependence may be explained by nonhomogeneous RGD surface distribution at the nanometre scale, conditioned by the stochastic nature of the hydrolysis process. Atomic force microscopy analysis of the gradient surface showed an evolution of surface morphology compatible with this hypothesis.

JTD Keywords: RGD gradient, Cell adhesion, Poly(methyl methacrylate), Hydrolysis, Biotin-streptavidin


Trepat, X., Fredberg, J. J., (2011). Plithotaxis and emergent dynamics in collective cellular migration Trends in Cell Biology 21, (11), 638-646

For a monolayer sheet to migrate cohesively, it has long been suspected that each constituent cell must exert physical forces not only upon its extracellular matrix but also upon neighboring cells. The first comprehensive maps of these distinct force components reveal an unexpected physical picture. Rather than showing smooth and systematic variation within the monolayer, the distribution of physical forces is dominated by heterogeneity, both in space and in time, which emerges spontaneously, propagates over great distances, and cooperates over the span of many cell bodies. To explain the severe ruggedness of this force landscape and its role in collective cell guidance, the well known mechanisms of chemotaxis, durotaxis, haptotaxis are clearly insufficient. In a broad range of epithelial and endothelial cell sheets, collective cell migration is governed instead by a newly discovered emergent mechanism of innately collective cell guidance - plithotaxis.

JTD Keywords: Positional information, Drosophila embryo, Sheet migration, Dpp gradient, Cells, Force, Morphogenesis, Transition, Identification, Proliferation


Lagunas, A., Comelles, J., Martinez, E., Samitier, J., (2010). Universal chemical gradient platforms using poly(methyl methacrylate) based on the biotin streptavidin interaction for biological applications Langmuir 26, (17), 14154-14161

This article describes a simple method for the construction of a universal surface chemical gradient platform based on the biotin streptavidin model. In this approach, surface chemical gradients were prepared in poly(methyl methacrylate) (PM MA), a biocompatible polymer, by a controlled hydrolysis procedure. The physicochemical properties of the resulting modified surfaces were extensively characterized. Chemical analysis carried out via time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToRSIMS) and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) showed the formation of a smooth, highly controllable carboxylic acid gradient of increasing concentration along the sample surface. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) and contact angle (CA) results indicate that, in contrast with most of the chemical gradient methods published in the literature, the chemical modification of the polymer surface barely affects its physical properties. The introduction of carboxylic acid functionality along the surface was then used for biomolecule anchoring. For this purpose, the surface was activated and derivatized first with biotin and finally with streptavidin (SA V) in a directed orientation fashion. The SAV gradient was qualitatively assessed by fluorescence microscopy analysis and quantified by surface plasmon resonance (SPR) in order to establish a quantitative relationship between SAV surface densities and the surface location. The usefulness of the fabrication method described for biological applications was tested by immobilizing biotinylated bradykinin onto the SAV gradient. This proof-of-concept application shows the effectiveness of the concentration range of the gradient because the effects of bradykinin on cell morphology were observed to increase gradually with increasing drug concentrations. The intrinsic characteristics of the fabricated gradient platform (absence of physicochemical modifications other than those due to the biomolecules included) allow us to attribute cell behavior unequivocally to the biomolecule surface density changes.

JTD Keywords: Wettability gradient, Polyethylene surface, Combinatorial, Immobilization, Biomaterials, Fabrication, Deposition, Bradykinin, Monolayers, Discharge