Neutrophil transendothelial migration (TEM) is an essential physiological process that regulates the recruitment of neutrophils in response to inflammatory signals. Herein, a versatile hydrogel scaffold is embedded in a microfluidic platform that supports an endothelial cell layer cultured in the vertical direction and highly stable chemical gradients; this construct is employed to mimic the in vivo neutrophil TEM process. We found that the number of neutrophils migrating across the endothelial cell layer is dependent on the presented chemoattractant concentration and the spatial profile of the chemical gradient. Endothelial cells play a critical role in neutrophil TEM by promoting neutrophil morphological changes as well as expressing surface receptor molecules that are indispensable for inducing neutrophil attachment and migration. Furthermore, the microfluidic device also supports competing chemoattractant gradients to facilitate neutrophil TEM studies in complex microenvironments that more accurately model the in vivo system than simplified microenvironments without the complexity of chemical gradients. This work demonstrates that combinations of any two different chemoattractants induce more significant neutrophil migration than a single chemoattractant in the same total amount, indicating synergistic effects between distinct chemoattractants. The in vitro reconstitution of neutrophil TEM successfully translates planar neutrophil movement into in vivo-like neutrophil recruitment and accelerates understanding of cellular interactions between neutrophils and endothelial cells within the complicated physiological milieu.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was partially supported by a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funding (DARPA 00026142). Device fabrication was done in the Minnesota Nano Center at University of Minnesota. We would like to thank Dr Zhe Gao for taking SEM images of the collagen gel. We also thank the help from Guillermo Marques and Thomas Pengo in University Imaging Center (University of Minnesota) for recording and processing confocal images.