Surface-density gradients of poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) were fabricated, in order to carry out a systematic study of the influence of PEG chain density on protein adsorption and cell-adhesion behavior, as well as the correlation between them. Gradients with a linear change in coverage of the polycationic polymer Poly(l-lysine)-g-poly(ethylene glycol) (PLL-g-PEG) were prepared on titanium dioxide surfaces by a controlled dipping process and characterized by variable-angle spectroscopic ellipsometry and fluorescence microscopy. The adsorption behavior of single proteins (fibrinogen and albumin) generally correlated with semiempirical geometric models, illustrating the effect of the PEG-chain surface distribution on the inhibition of protein adsorption. Distinct differences could be observed between individual adsorbing proteins, attributable to their mode of surface attachment. The single and competitive adsorption of protein solutions containing albumin and fibrinogen was then investigated by fluorescence microscopy, indicating a larger amount of fibrinogen adsorption compared with albumin adsorption (in minutes to hours) along the entire PLL-g-PEG gradient samples. To further elucidate the underlying mechanism of cell adhesion and spreading as a function of PEG coverage and the potential involvement of integrins, cell-adhesion assays were carried out with human foreskin fibroblasts (hFF). The use of surface-gradient samples demonstrated the importance for protein adsorption of PEG conformation, the amount of exposed titanium dioxide surface area (and its distribution), and the structure and chemistry of the proteins involved. Correspondingly the influence of these factors on cell adhesion could be directly observed, and insights gained into the roles of both nonspecific binding and specific integrin binding in cell adhesion.
Pei, J., H. Hall, N.D. Spencer