Chemical and mechanical cues are well-established influencers of in vitro chondrogenic differentiation of ATDC5 cells. Here, we investigate the role of topographical cues in this differentiation process, a study not been explored before. Previously, using a library of surface micro-topographies we found some distinct patterns that induced alkaline phosphatase (ALP) production in human mesenchymal stromal cells. ALP is also a marker for hypertrophy, the end stage of chondrogenic differentiation preceding bone formation. Thus, we hypothesized that these patterns could influence end-stage chondrogenic differentiation of ATDC5 cells. In this study, we randomly selected seven topographies among the ALP influencing hits. Cells grown on these surfaces displayed varying nuclear shape and actin filament structure. When stimulated with insulin-transferrin-selenium (ITS) medium, nodule formation occurred and in some cases showed alignment to the topographical patterns. Gene expression analysis of cells growing on topographical surfaces in the presence of ITS medium revealed a downregulation of early markers and upregulation of late markers of chondrogenic differentiation compared to cells grown on a flat surface. In conclusion, we demonstrated that surface topography in addition to other cues can promote hypertrophic differentiation suitable for bone tissue engineering.
Keywords: ATDC5; cell morphology; chondrogenesis; hypertrophy; surface topography.