Exploring the effects of electrospun fiber surface nanotopography on neurite outgrowth and branching in neuron cultures

PLoS One. 2019 Feb 4;14(2):e0211731. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0211731. eCollection 2019.


Three aligned, electrospun fiber scaffolds with unique surface features were created from poly-L-lactic acid (PLLA). Fibers without surface nanotopography (smooth fibers), fibers with surface divots (shallow pits), and fibers with surface pits (deeper pits) were fabricated, and fiber alignment, diameter, and density were characterized using scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Whole dorsal root ganglia (DRG) were isolated from rats and placed onto uncoated fibers or fibers coated with laminin. On uncoated fibers, neurite outgrowth was restricted by fibers displaying divoted or pitted nanotopography when compared to neurite outgrowth on smooth fibers. However, neurites extending from whole DRG cultured on laminin-coated fibers were not restricted by divoted or pitted surface nanotopography. Thus, neurites extending on laminin-coated fibers were able to extend long neurites even in the presence of surface divots or pits. To further explore this result, individual neurons isolated from dissociated DRG were seeded onto laminin-coated smooth, pitted, or divoted fibers. Interestingly, neurons on pitted or divoted fibers exhibited a 1.5-fold increase in total neurite length, and a 2.3 or 2.7-fold increase in neurite branching compared to neurons on smooth fibers, respectively. Based on these findings, we conclude that fiber roughness in the form of pits or divots can promote extension and branching of long neurites along aligned electrospun fibers in the presence of an extracellular matrix protein coating. Thus, aligned, electrospun fibers can be crafted to not only direct the extension of axons but to induce unique branching morphologies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Ganglia, Spinal / metabolism
  • Ganglia, Spinal / physiology
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning / methods
  • Nanotechnology / methods
  • Nerve Regeneration / physiology
  • Neurites / metabolism
  • Neurites / physiology*
  • Neuronal Outgrowth / physiology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Polyesters / chemistry
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tissue Engineering / methods
  • Tissue Scaffolds


  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Polyesters
  • poly(lactide)