Cells are able to develop various types of membrane protrusions that modulate their adhesive, migratory, or functional properties. However, their ability to form basal protrusions, particularly in the context of epithelial sheets, is not widely characterized. The authors built hexagonal lattices to probe systematically the microtopography-induced formation of epithelial cell protrusions. Lattices of hexagons of various sizes (from 1.5 to 19 μm) and 5–10 μm height were generated by two-photon photopolymerization in NOA61 or poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate derivatives. The authors found that cells generated numerous, extensive, and deep basal protrusions for hexagons inferior to cell size (3–10 μm) while maintaining a continuous epithelial layer above structures. They characterized the kinetics of protrusion formation depending on scaffold geometry and size. The reported formation of extensive protrusions in 3D microtopography could be beneficial to develop new biomaterials with increased adhesive properties or to improve tissue engineering.

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See supplementary material at https://doi.org/10.1116/1.5024601 for colonization of hexagonal lattices by other epithelial cells, additional characterization in NOA and PEGDA 575 structures, cell adhesion on different surface chemistries, and set of raw data.

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