In tissues, cell microenvironment geometry and mechanics strongly impact on cell physiology. Surface micropatterning allows the control of geometry while deformable substrates of tunable stiffness are well suited for the control of the mechanics. We developed a new method to micropattern extracellular matrix proteins on poly-acrylamide gels in order to simultaneously control cell geometry and mechanics. Microenvironment geometry and mechanics impinge on cell functions by regulating the development of intra-cellular forces. We measured these forces in micropatterned cells. Micropattern geometry was streamlined to orient forces and place cells in comparable conditions. Thereby force measurement method could be simplified and applied to large-scale experiment on chip. We applied this method to mammary epithelial cells with traction force measurements in various conditions to mimic tumoral transformation. We found that, contrary to the current view, all transformation phenotypes were not always associated to an increased level of cell contractility.
This journal is © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2011