AbstractIn this study we present the development of responsive nanoscale substrates exhibiting cell-guiding properties based on incorporated bioactive signaling cues. The investigative approach considered the effect of two different surface-bound growth factors (GFs) on cell behavior and response: hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). Two surface biofunctionalization strategies were explored in order to conceive versatile, bioactive thin polymer brush films. Polymer brushes made of tethered poly(acrylic)acid (PAA) polymer layers with a high grafting density of polymer chains were biofunctionalized with GFs either by physisorption or chemisorption. Both GFs showed high binding efficiencies to PAA brushes based on their initial loading concentrations. The GF release kinetics can be distinguished depending on the applied biofunctionalization method. Specifically, a high initial burst followed by a constant slow release was observed in the case of both physisorbed HGF and bFGF. In contrast, the release kinetics of chemisorbed GFs were quite different. Remarkably, chemisorbed HGF remained bound to the brush surface for over 1 week, whereas 50% of chemisorbed bFGF was released slowly. Furthermore, the effect of these GF-biofunctionalized PAA brushes on different cells was investigated. A human hepatoma cell line (HepG2) was used to analyze the bioactivity of HGF-modified PAA brushes by measuring cell growth inhibition and scattering effects. Additionally, the differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) toward endoderm was studied on bFGF-modified PAA brush surfaces. Finally, the results illustrate that PAA brushes, particularly those biofunctionalized with chemisorbed GFs, produce an expected measurable effect on both cell types. Therefore, PAA polymer brushes biofunctionalized with GFs can be used as bioactive cell culture substrates with tuned efficiency.