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Open Access Open Badges Methodology article

Thin films of Type 1 collagen for cell by cell analysis of morphology and tenascin-C promoter activity

Kurt J Langenbach1, John T Elliott1, Alex Tona2, Dennis McDaniel1 and Anne L Plant1*

Author Affiliations

1 Biotechnology Division/National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD 20899, USA

2 Geo-centers, Inc. Newton, MA 02459, USA

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BMC Biotechnology 2006, 6:14  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-6-14

Published: 6 March 2006



The use of highly reproducible and spatiallyhomogeneous thin film matrices permits automated microscopy and quantitative determination of the response of hundreds of cells in a population. Using thin films of extracellular matrix proteins, we have quantified, on a cell-by-cell basis, phenotypic parameters of cells on different extracellular matrices. We have quantitatively examined the relationship between fibroblast morphology and activation of the promoter for the extracellular matrix protein tenascin-C using a tenascin-C promoter-based GFP reporter construct.


We find that when considering the average response from the population of cells, cell area correlates with tenascin-C promoter activity as has been previously suggested; however cell-by-cell analysis suggests that cell area and promoter activity are not tightly correlated within individual cells.


This study demonstrates how quantitative cell-by-cell analysis, facilitated by the use of thin films of extracellular matrix proteins, can provide insight into the relationship between phenotypic parameters.