Journal for Biophysical Chemistry

Biointerphases Cover Image
Open Access

Optimizing interfacial features to regulate neural progenitor cells using polyelectrolyte multilayers and brain derived neurotrophic factor

  • Kun Zhou1, 2,
  • Gui Zhi Sun2,
  • Claude C. Bernard3,
  • George A. Thouas3,
  • David R. Nisbet4 and
  • John S. Forsythe1

Received: 13 August 2011

Accepted: 7 October 2011


The development of biomaterials with controllable interfacial features which have the capability to instruct cellular behavior are required to produce functional scaffolds for the treatment of spinal cord injury (SCI). Here, poly-ε-caprolactone surfaces were biofunctionalized via layer-by-layer (LbL) deposition. The polyelectrolytes employed in this LbL technique were heparin and poly-L-lysine (PLL), the latter being chosen to improve cell adhesion and the subsequent cellular function of in vitrocultured neural progenitor cells. Material characterization results confirmed the deposition of well structured multilayers. Cell culture studies revealed significant differences in the cellular response to these adhesive/nonadhesive (PLL/heparin) polyelectrolyte multilayer (PEM)surfaces, with neurite outgrowth being significantly promoted on the PLL terminating layers. In addition, brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) was adsorbed onto the LbL surfaces. This combined chemical and biological effect was then characterized in terms of neurite length along with the full length/truncated isoform 1 tyrosine kinase receptor (TrkB-FL/TrkB-T1) and growth associated protein-43 mRNA levels. Here, the authors report the differential effect of adsorbed and soluble BDNF of different concentrations. Adsorbed BDNF promoted neurite outgrowth and led to elevated, sustained TrkB mRNA levels. These findings highlight the potential of PEM biofunctionalized surfaces with integrated chemical and neurotrophin supportive cues to overcome SCI inhibitory environments and to promote regeneration.