In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology - Animal

, Volume 45, Issue 7, pp 343-350

First online:

Control of myocyte remodeling in vitro with engineered substrates

  • Nicholas A. GeisseAffiliated withSchool of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
  • , Sean P. SheehyAffiliated withSchool of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
  • , Kevin Kit ParkerAffiliated withSchool of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University Email author 

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Tissue microenvironments can regulate cell behavior by imposing physical restrictions on their geometry and size. An example of these phenomena is cardiac morphogenesis, where morphometric changes in the heart are concurrent with changes in the size, shape, and cytoskeleton of ventricular myocytes. In this study, we asked how myocytes adapt their size, shape, and intracellular architecture when spatially confined in vitro. To answer this question, we used microcontact printing to physically constrain neonatal rat ventricular myocytes on fibronectin islands in culture. The myocytes spread and assumed the shape of the islands and reorganized their cytoskeleton in response to the geometric cues in the extracellular matrix. Cytoskeletal architecture is variable, where myocytes cultured on rectangular islands of lower aspect ratios (length to width ratio) were observed to assemble a multiaxial myofibrillar arrangement; myocytes cultured on rectangles of aspect ratios approaching those observed in vivo had a uniaxial orientation of their myofibrils. Using confocal and atomic force microscopy, we made precise measurements of myocyte volume over a range of cell shapes with approximately equal surface areas. When myocytes are cultured on islands of variable shape but the same surface area, their size is conserved despite the changes in cytoskeletal architecture. Our data suggest that the internal cytoskeletal architecture of the cell is dependent on extracellular boundary conditions while overall cell size is not, suggesting a growth control mechanism independent of the cytoskeleton and cell geometry.


Microcontact printing Cytoskeleton Myofibril Cardiac myocyte Atomic force microscopy Confocal microscopy