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T cell activation and immune synapse organization respond to the microscale mechanics of structured surfaces

Jin, Weiyang; Tamzalit, Fella; Chaudhuri, Parthiv Kant; Black, Charles; Huse, Morgan; Kam, Lance C.

Cells have the remarkable ability to sense the mechanical stiffness of their surroundings. This has been studied extensively in the context of cells interacting with planar surfaces, a conceptually elegant model that also has application in biomaterial design. However, physiological interfaces are spatially complex, exhibiting topographical features that are described over multiple scales. This report explores mechanosensing of microstructured elastomer surfaces by CD4+ T cells, key mediators of the adaptive immune response. We show that T cells form complex interactions with elastomer micropillar arrays, extending processes into spaces between structures and forming local areas of contraction and expansion dictated by the layout of microtubules within this interface. Conversely, cytoskeletal reorganization and intracellular signaling are sensitive to the pillar dimensions and flexibility. Unexpectedly, these measures show different responses to substrate rigidity, suggesting competing processes in overall T cell mechanosensing. The results of this study demonstrate that T cells sense the local rigidity of their environment, leading to strategies for biomaterial design.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Published Here
September 9, 2019