The effect of Young's modulus on the neuronal differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells

Shahzad Ali, Ivan B Wall, Chris Mason, Andrew E Pelling, Farlan S Veraitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is substantial evidence that cells produce a diverse response to changes in ECM stiffness depending on their identity. Our aim was to understand how stiffness impacts neuronal differentiation of embryonic stem cells (ESC's), and how this varies at three specific stages of the differentiation process. In this investigation, three effects of stiffness on cells were considered; attachment, expansion and phenotypic changes during differentiation. Stiffness was varied from 2 kPa to 18 kPa to finally 35 kPa. Attachment was found to decrease with increasing stiffness for both ESC's (with a 95% decrease on 35 kPa compared to 2 kPa) and neural precursors (with a 83% decrease on 35 kPa). The attachment of immature neurons was unaffected by stiffness. Expansion was independent of stiffness for all cell types, implying that the proliferation of cells during this differentiation process was independent of Young's modulus. Stiffness had no effect upon phenotypic changes during differentiation for mESC's and neural precursors. 2 kPa increased the proportion of cells that differentiated from immature into mature neurons. Taken together our findings imply that the impact of Young's modulus on attachment diminishes as neuronal cells become more mature. Conversely, the impact of Young's modulus on changes in phenotype increased as cells became more mature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-267
Number of pages15
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015

Bibliographical note

© 2015 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY license(


  • Animals
  • Biomarkers/metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion/drug effects
  • Cell Differentiation/drug effects
  • Elastic Modulus/drug effects
  • Gelatin/chemistry
  • Glutaral/chemistry
  • Heterocyclic Compounds, 4 or More Rings/pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins/metabolism
  • Microtubules/drug effects
  • Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells/cytology
  • Neurons/cytology
  • Nocodazole/pharmacology
  • Phenotype
  • Tubulin/metabolism


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