The cytoskeletal organization of breast carcinoma and fibroblast cells inside three dimensional (3-D) isotropic silicon microstructures

Mehdi Nikkhah, Jeannine S. Strobl, Raffaella De Vita, Masoud Agah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Studying the cytoskeletal organization as cells interact in their local microenvironment is interest of biological science, tissue engineering and cancer diagnosis applications. Herein, we describe the behavior of cell lines obtained from metastatic breast tumor pleural effusions (MDA-MB-231), normal fibrocystic mammary epithelium (MCF10A), and HS68 normal fibroblasts inside three dimensional (3-D) isotropic silicon microstructures fabricated by a single-mask, single-isotropic-etch process. We report differences in adhesion, mechanism of force balance within the cytoskeleton, and deformability among these cell types inside the 3-D microenvironment. HS68 fibroblasts typically stretched and formed vinculin-rich focal adhesions at anchor sites inside the etched cavities. In contrast, MCF10A and MDA-MB-231 cells adopted the curved surfaces of isotropic microstructures and exhibited more diffuse vinculin cytoplasmic staining in addition to vinculin localized in focal adhesions. The measurement of cells elasticity using atomic force microscopy (AFM) indentation revealed that HS68 cells are significantly stiffer (p < 0.0001) than MCF10A and MDA-MB-231 cells. Upon microtubule disruption with nocodazole, fibroblasts no longer stretched, but adhesion of MCF10A and MDA-MB-231 within the etched features remained unaltered. Our findings are consistent with tensegrity theory. The 3-D microstructures have the potential to probe cytoskeletal-based differences between healthy and diseased cells that can provide biomarkers for diagnostics purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4552-4561
Number of pages10
Issue number16
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • AFM
  • Breast cancer
  • HS68 fibroblasts
  • Isotropic
  • MEMS
  • Silicon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Biophysics
  • Biomaterials
  • Mechanics of Materials


Dive into the research topics of 'The cytoskeletal organization of breast carcinoma and fibroblast cells inside three dimensional (3-D) isotropic silicon microstructures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this