The enhancement of dermal papilla cell aggregation by extracellular matrix proteins through effects on cell-substratum adhesivity and cell motility

Biomaterials. 2009 Oct;30(28):5031-40. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2009.05.065. Epub 2009 Jun 24.


Generally, cells tend to aggregate on a substratum with lower cell adhesivity. However, it also leads to compromised cell growth and higher cell loss after seeding. This study is aimed at tackling this dilemma by extracellular matrix (ECM) protein coating of a lower adhesive substratum poly(ethylene-co-vinyl alcohol) (EVAL) that has been shown to facilitate hair follicle dermal papilla (DP) spheroid formation. We found that coating with either fibronectin (Fn), collagen I, or collagen IV yields higher adhesivity and cell growth than that with laminin. However, cells can only aggregate on uncoated or Fn-coated EVAL. Quantitatively, Fn coating increases the number of spheroids by 67%. Analysis of cell migration reveals that collagen I, collagen IV and laminin coatings reduce cell motility, while Fn coating keeps cells highly motile. Inhibition of cell migration hinders spheroid formation. In addition, disruption of Fn function does not significantly compromise intercellular adhesion. Hence, Fn enhances cell aggregation by enhancing cell attachment, cell growth and cell motility. Our study demonstrates that intercellular organization as spheroids or flat monolayers is switchable by specific ECM protein coating and preserving cell motility is vital to cell aggregation. In addition to generation of spheroidal DP microtissues for hair follicle regeneration and large-scale production of aggregates of other cells, this strategy can help to regulate the tissue-substrate adhesivity and tissue spreadability on the surface of implantable materials.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion*
  • Cell Aggregation*
  • Cell Movement*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Dermis / cytology*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / chemistry
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism*
  • Polyvinyls / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Spheroids, Cellular / cytology
  • Vibrissae / cytology


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Polyvinyls
  • ethylene-vinyl alcohol copolymer