The interplay between physical and chemical properties of protein films affects their bioactivity.
Although mechanical properties, roughness, and receptor molecule expression have all been shown to influence the cellular reactivity of collagen-based biomaterials, their relative contribution, in a given system remains unclear. Here, we study films containing combinations of collagen, gelatin, and soluble and insoluble elastin, crosslinking of which results in altered film stiffness and roughness. Collagen and gelatin have similar amino acid sequences but altered cell-binding sites. We studied cell response with both C2C12 myoblast cells (which possess RGD-recognizing integrins α(V)β(3) and α(5)β(1)) and C2C12-α2+ cells (which, in addition, express the collagen-binding integrin α(2)β(1)) to establish the effect of altering the available binding sites on cell adhesion and spreading on films. Systematically altering the composition, crosslinking and cell type, allows us to deconvolute the effects of physical parameters and available binding sites on the cell reactivity of films in this system. Collagen-based films were rougher and stiffer and supported lower cell surface coverage than gelatin-based films. Additionally, C2C12-α2+ cells showed preferential attachment to collagen-based films compared with C2C12 cells, but no significant difference was seen using gelatin-based films. The cell count and surface coverage were found to decrease significantly on all films after crosslinking (Coll XL coverage = 2-6%, Gel XL coverage = 20-32%), but cell area and aspect ratio on collagen films were affected to a greater extent than on gelatin films. The results show that, in this system, the composition, and more significantly, crosslinking, of films affects the cell reactivity to a greater extent than their stiffness or roughness.