Micropatterning techniques have been widely used in biology, particularly in studies involving cell adhesion and proliferation on different substrates. Cell micropatterning approaches are also increasingly employed as in vitro tools to investigate intracellular mechanotransduction processes. In this report, we examined how modulating cellular shapes on two-dimensional rectangular fibronectin micropatterns of different widths influences nuclear mechanotransduction mediated by emerin, a nuclear envelope protein implicated in Emery–Dreifuss muscular dystrophy (EDMD). Fibronectin microcontact printing was tested onto glass coverslips functionalized with three different silane reagents (hexamethyldisilazane (HMDS), (3-Aminopropyl)triethoxysilane (APTES) and (3-Glycidyloxypropyl)trimethoxysilane (GPTMS)) using a vapor-phase deposition method. We observed that HMDS provides the most reliable printing surface for cell micropatterning, notably because it forms a hydrophobic organosilane monolayer that favors the retainment of surface antifouling agents on the coverslips. We showed that, under specific mechanical cues, emerin-null human skin fibroblasts display a significantly more deformed nucleus than skin fibroblasts expressing wild type emerin, indicating that emerin plays a crucial role in nuclear adaptability to mechanical stresses. We further showed that proper nuclear responses to forces involve a significant relocation of emerin from the inner nuclear envelope towards the outer nuclear envelope and the endoplasmic reticulum membrane network. Cell micropatterning by fibronectin microcontact printing directly on HMDS-treated glass represents a simple approach to apply steady-state biophysical cues to cells and study their specific mechanobiology responses in vitro.
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