Open Access Open Badges Research article

Cellular response to micropatterned growth promoting and inhibitory substrates

Wiam Belkaid13, Peter Thostrup12, Patricia T Yam134, Camille A Juzwik13, Edward S Ruthazer13*, Ajit S Dhaunchak13 and David R Colman13

Author Affiliations

1 McGill Program in Neuroengineering, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

2 Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark

3 Montreal Neurological Institute, 3801 University St, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2B4, Canada

4 Molecular Biology of Neural Development, Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montréal, Montreal, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Biotechnology 2013, 13:86  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-13-86

Published: 11 October 2013



Normal development and the response to injury both require cell growth, migration and morphological remodeling, guided by a complex local landscape of permissive and inhibitory cues. A standard approach for studying by such cues is to culture cells on uniform substrates containing known concentrations of these molecules, however this method fails to represent the molecular complexity of the natural growth environment.


To mimic the local complexity of environmental conditions in vitro, we used a contact micropatterning technique to examine cell growth and differentiation on patterned substrates printed with the commonly studied growth permissive and inhibitory substrates, poly-L-lysine (PLL) and myelin, respectively. We show that micropatterning of PLL can be used to direct adherence and axonal outgrowth of hippocampal and cortical neurons as well as other cells with diverse morphologies like Oli-neu oligodendrocyte progenitor cell lines and fibroblast-like COS7 cells in culture. Surprisingly, COS7 cells exhibited a preference for low concentration (1 pg/mL) PLL zones over adjacent zones printed with high concentrations (1 mg/mL). We demonstrate that micropatterning is also useful for studying factors that inhibit growth as it can direct cells to grow along straight lines that are easy to quantify. Furthermore, we provide the first demonstration of microcontact printing of myelin-associated proteins and show that they impair process outgrowth from Oli-neu oligodendrocyte precursor cells.


We conclude that microcontact printing is an efficient and reproducible method for patterning proteins and brain-derived myelin on glass surfaces in order to study the effects of the microenvironment on cell growth and morphogenesis.

Microcontact printing; Polylysine; Myelin; Adhesion; Oli-neu; COS7; Primary culture