Collective cell migration is a dynamic and interactive behavior of cell cohorts essential for diverse physiological developments in living organisms. Recent studies have revealed the importance of three-dimensional (3D) topographical confinements to regulate the migration modes of cell cohorts in tubular confinement. However, conventional in vitro assays fail to observe cells’ behavior in response to 3D structural changes, which is necessary for examining the geometric regulation factors of collective migration. Here, we introduce a newly developed assay for fabricating flexible 3D structures of capillary microtunnels to examine the behavior of vascular endothelial cells (ECs) as they progress through the successive transition across wide or narrow tube structures. The microtunnels with altered diameters were formed inside gelatin-gel blocks by photo-thermal etching with micrometer-sized spot heating of the focused infrared laser absorption. The ECs migrated and spread two-dimensionally on the inner surface of gelatin capillary microtunnels as a monolayer instead of filling the entire capillary. In the straight cylindrical topographical constraint, leading ECs exhibited no apparent diameter dependence for the maximum peak migration velocity. However, widening the diameter in the narrow-wide structures caused a decrease in migration velocity following in direct proportion to the diameter increase ratio, whereas narrowing the diameter in wide-narrow microtunnels increased the speed without obvious correlation between velocity change and diameter change. The results demonstrated the ability of the newly developed flexible 3D gelatin tube structures for collective cell migration, and the findings provide insights into the dominant geometric factor of the emerging migratory modes for endothelial migration as asymmetric fluid flow-like behavior in the borderless cylindrical cell sheets.
ASJC Scopus subject areas