In vitro formation of neuroclusters in microfluidic devices and cell migration as a function of stromal-derived growth factor 1 gradients

Cell Adh Migr. 2017 Jan 2;11(1):1-12. doi: 10.1080/19336918.2015.1131388. Epub 2016 Jan 8.


Central nervous system (CNS) cells cultured in vitro as neuroclusters are useful models of tissue regeneration and disease progression. However, the role of cluster formation and collective migration of these neuroclusters to external stimuli has been largely unstudied in vitro. Here, 3 distinct CNS cell types, medulloblastoma (MB), medulloblastoma-derived glial progenitor cells (MGPC), and retinal progenitor cells (RPC), were examined with respect to cluster formation and migration in response to Stromal-Derived Growth Factor (SDF-1). A microfluidic platform was used to distinguish collective migration of neuroclusters from that of individual cells in response to controlled concentration profiles of SDF-1. Cell lines were also compared with respect to expression of CXCR4, the receptor for SDF-1, and the gap junction protein Connexin 43 (Cx43). All cell types spontaneously formed clusters and expressed both CXCR4 and Cx43. RPC clusters exhibited collective chemotactic migration (i.e. movement as clusters) along SDF-1 concentration gradients. MGPCs clusters did not exhibit adhesion-based migration, and migration of MB clusters was inconsistent. This study demonstrates how controlled microenvironments can be used to examine the formation and collective migration of CNS-derived neuroclusters in varied cell populations.

Keywords: SDF-1; central nervous system; chemotaxis; collective migration; medulloblastoma; retinal progenitors; stromal-derived growth factor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Aggregation / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / drug effects*
  • Cell Size / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / pharmacology*
  • Chemotaxis / drug effects
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lab-On-A-Chip Devices*
  • Medulloblastoma / pathology
  • Neuroglia / drug effects
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • CXCR4 protein, human
  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Connexin 43
  • Receptors, CXCR4