Recapitulating complex biological signaling environments using a multiplexed, DNA-patterning approach

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Science Advances  18 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 12, eaay5696
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay5696


Elucidating how the spatial organization of extrinsic signals modulates cell behavior and drives biological processes remains largely unexplored because of challenges in controlling spatial patterning of multiple microenvironmental cues in vitro. Here, we describe a high-throughput method that directs simultaneous assembly of multiple cell types and solid-phase ligands across length scales within minutes. Our method involves lithographically defining hierarchical patterns of unique DNA oligonucleotides to which complementary strands, attached to cells and ligands-of-interest, hybridize. Highlighting our method’s power, we investigated how the spatial presentation of self-renewal ligand fibroblast growth factor-2 (FGF-2) and differentiation signal ephrin-B2 instruct single adult neural stem cell (NSC) fate. We found that NSCs have a strong spatial bias toward FGF-2 and identified an unexpected subpopulation exhibiting high neuronal differentiation despite spatially occupying patterned FGF-2 regions. Overall, our broadly applicable, DNA-directed approach enables mechanistic insight into how tissues encode regulatory information through the spatial presentation of heterogeneous signals.

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