Extracellular matrices (ECM) triggered cellular signaling processes often begin with the clustering of the cellular receptors such as integrin and FcεRI. The sizes of these initial protein complexes or clusters are tens to 100 nm in dimension; therefore, engineered nanostructures could provide effective mimics of ECM for investigation and control of the initial and downstream specific signaling processes. This current topic discusses recent advances in nanotechnology in the context of design and production of matching chemical functionality and geometry for control of specific cellular signaling processes. Two investigations are reported to demonstrate this concept: (a) how the presentation of antigen at the nanometer scale would influence the aggregation of FcεRI, which would impact the formation of activation complexes, leading to the rearrangement of actin in cytoskeleton and degranulation or activation of mast cells; (b) how the engineered nanostructure could guide the initial integrin clustering, which would impact the formation of focal adhesion and downstream cell signaling cascades, leading to polarization, migration, and morphological changes. Complementary to engineered ECMs using synthetic ligands or peptides, or topographic control at the micrometer scale, nanostructures of designed geometry and chemical functionality provide new and effective biochemical cues for regulation of cellular signaling processes and downstream behaviors.
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