Here we report a proof-of-concept for development of pancreatic islet-targeting nanoparticles for immunomodulatory therapy of autoimmune Type 1 Diabetes. Modified with a unique islet-homing peptide, these polymeric nanomaterials exhibit 3-fold greater binding to islet endothelial cells and a 200-fold greater anti-inflammatory effect through targeted islet endothelial cell delivery of an immunosuppressant drug. Our findings also underscore the need to carefully tailor drug loading and nanoparticle dosage to achieve maximal vascular targeting and immunosuppression.
Diabetes; pancreatic islet; nanoparticle; drug delivery; vascular endothelium; inflammation; tissue targeting
This paper focuses on the development of magnetic cellular switches to enable magnetic control of intracellular functions in living mammalian cells, including receptor signal transduction and gene transcription. Our approach takes advantage of the mechanosensitivity of adenosine 3′,5′-monophosphate (cAMP) induction and downstream transcription controlled by the cAMP regulatory element (CRE) to engineer gene constructs that optically report gene expression in living cells. We activate transcription of these gene reporters by applying magnetic (mechanical) stress to magnetic microbeads bound to cell surface integrin receptors. In these gene reporter constructs, CRE motifs drive the expression of fluorescent proteins or enzymes that produce fluorescent products, such as DsRed and β-lactamase (BLA), respectively. We demonstrate that a chemical inducer of cAMP (forskolin) increases expression of CRE-DsRed in living cells. More importantly, a threefold increase in CRE-BLA expression is induced by application of mechanical stress to magnetic microbeads (4.5 µm) bound to cell surface integrin receptors. Induction of cAMP could be detected within 5 min using a protein fragment complementation assay involving interactions between the KID and KIX domains of the CRE binding protein linked to complementary halves of the BLA enzyme. These studies confirm that application of magnetic stress to integrins induces gene transcription by activating the cAMP-dependent transcription factor CREB. Ongoing studies focus on optimizing sensitivity and reducing signal-to-noise by establishing stable cell lines that express these gene reporters. These studies collectively demonstrate the feasibility of using magnetic technologies to control function in living mammalian cells and, hence, support the possibility of developing magnetically-actuated cellular components for use in future micro- and nanotechnologies.
Biological cells; biological control systems; biological signal transduction; biomagnetics
Mesenchymal condensation is critical for organogenesis, yet little is known about how this process is controlled. Here we show that Fgf8 and Sema3f produced by early dental epithelium respectively attract and repulse mesenchymal cells, which causes them to pack tightly together during mouse tooth development. Resulting mechanical compaction-induced changes in cell shape induce odontogenic transcription factors (Pax9, Msx1) and chemical cue (BMP4), and mechanical compression of mesenchyme is sufficient to induce tooth-specific cell fate switching. The inductive effects of cell compaction are mediated by suppression of the mechanical signaling molecule RhoA, and its over-expression prevents odontogenic induction. Thus, the mesenchymal condensation that drives tooth formation is induced by antagonistic epithelial morphogens that manifest their pattern-generating actions mechanically via changes in mesenchymal cell shape and altered mechanotransduction.
Mesenchymal condensation; organogenesis; epithelial-mesenchymal interactions; mechanical forces; cell shape; Fgf8; Sema3f; Nrp2; Pax9; RhoA; tooth
To advance cancer research in a transformative way, we must redefine the problem. Although epithelial cancers, such as breast cancer, may be caused by random somatic gene mutations, the reality is that this is only one of many ways to induce tumor formation. Cancers also can be produced in experimental systems in vitro and in vivo, for example, by inducing sustained alterations of extracellular matrix (ECM) structure. Moreover, certain epithelial cancers can be induced to ‘reboot’ and regenerate normal tissue morphology when combined with embryonic mesenchyme or exogenous ECM scaffolds that are produced through epithelial-stromal interactions. At the same time, work in the field of Mechanical Biology has revealed that many cell behaviors critical for cancer formation (e.g., growth, differentiation, motility, apoptosis) can be controlled by physical interactions between cells and their ECM adhesions that alter the mechanical force balance in the ECM, cell and cytoskeleton. Epithelial tumor progression also can be induced in vitro by changing ECM mechanics or altering cytoskeletal tension generation through manipulation of the Rho GTPase signaling pathway. Mechanical interactions between capillary cells and ECM that are mediated by Rho signaling similarly mediate control of capillary cell growth and angiogenesis, which are equally critical for cancer progression and metastasis. These findings question basic assumptions in the cancer field, and raise the intriguing possibility that cancer may be a reversible disease that results from progressive deregulation of tissue architecture, which leads to physical changes in cells and altered mechanical signaling. This perspective raises the possibility of developing a tissue engineering approach to cancer therapy in which biologically-inspired materials that mimic the embryonic microenvironment are used to induce cancers to revert into normal tissues.
mechanical; extracellular matrix; stroma; cell traction; cytoskeleton; cancer therapy
Anyone who is skilled in the art of physical therapy knows that the mechanical properties, behavior and movement of our bodies are as important for human health as chemicals and genes. However, only recently have scientists and physicians begun to appreciate the key role that mechanical forces play in biological control at the molecular and cellular levels. This article provides a brief overview of a lecture presented at the 1st International Fascia Research Congress that convened at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA on October 4, 2007. (see figure 1) In this lecture, I described what we have learned over the past thirty years as a result of our research focused on the molecular mechanisms by which cells sense mechanical forces and convert them into changes in intracellular biochemistry and gene expression – a process called “mechanotransduction”. This work has revealed that molecules, cells, tissues, organs, and our entire bodies use “tensegrity” architecture to mechanically stabilize their shape, and to seamlessly integrate structure and function at all size scales. Through use of this tension-dependent building system, mechanical forces applied at the macroscale produce changes in biochemistry and gene expression within individual living cells. This structure-based system provides a mechanistic basis to explain how application of physical therapies might influence cell and tissue physiology.
tensegrity; mechanotransduction; cytoskeleton; integrins; cell tension; physical therapy
This article is a summary of a lecture on cellular mechanotransduction that was presented at a symposium on “Cardiac Mechano-Electric Feedback and Arrhythmias” that convened at Oxford, England in April 2007. Although critical mechanosensitive molecules and cellular components, such as integrins, stretch-activated ion channels, and cytoskeletal filaments, have been shown to contribute to the response by which cells convert mechanical signals into a biochemical response, little is known about how they function in the structural context of living cells, tissues and organs to produce orchestrated changes in cell behavior in response to stress. Here, studies are reviewed that suggest our bodies use structural hierarchies (systems within systems) composed of interconnected extracellular matrix and cytoskeletal networks that span from the macroscale to the nanoscale to focus stresses on specific mechanotransducer molecules. A key feature of these networks is that they are in a state of isometric tension (i.e., experience a tensile prestress), which ensures that various molecular-scale mechanochemical transduction mechanisms proceed simultaneously and produce a concerted response. These features of living architecture are the same principles that govern tensegrity (tensional integrity) architecture, and mathematical models based on tensegrity are beginning to provide new and useful descriptions of living materials, including mammalian cells. This article reviews how the use of tensegrity at multiple size scales in our bodies guides mechanical force transfer from the macro to the micro, as well as how it facilitates conversion of mechanical signals into changes in ion flux, molecular binding kinetics, signal transduction, gene transcription, cell fate switching and developmental patterning.
Physical interactions between cells and the extracellular matrix (ECM) guide directional migration by spatially controlling where cells form focal adhesions (FAs), which in turn regulate the extension of motile processes. Here we show that physical control of directional migration requires the FA scaffold protein paxillin. Using single-cell sized ECM islands to constrain cell shape, we found that fibroblasts cultured on square islands preferentially activated Rac and extended lamellipodia from corner, rather than side regions after 30 min stimulation with PDGF, but that cells lacking paxillin failed to restrict Rac activity to corners and formed small lamellipodia along their entire peripheries. This spatial preference was preceded by non-spatially constrained formation of both dorsal and lateral membrane ruffles from 5–10 min. Expression of paxillin N-terminal (paxN) or C-terminal (paxC) truncation mutants produced opposite, but complementary, effects on lamellipodia formation. Surprisingly, pax−/− and paxN cells also formed more circular dorsal ruffles (CDRs) than pax+ cells, while paxC cells formed fewer CDRs and extended larger lamellipodia even in the absence of PDGF. In a two-dimensional (2D) wound assay, pax−/− cells migrated at similar speeds to controls but lost directional persistence. Directional motility was rescued by expressing full-length paxillin or the N-terminus alone, but paxN cells migrated more slowly. In contrast, pax−/− and paxN cells exhibited increased migration in a three-dimensional (3D) invasion assay, with paxN cells invading Matrigel even in the absence of PDGF. These studies indicate that paxillin integrates physical and chemical motility signals by spatially constraining where cells will form motile processes, and thereby regulates directional migration both in 2D and 3D. These findings also suggest that CDRs may correspond to invasive protrusions that drive cell migration through 3D extracellular matrices.
Integrins are ubiquitous transmembrane mechanoreceptors that elicit changes in intracellular biochemistry in response to mechanical force application, but these alterations generally proceed over seconds to minutes. Stress-sensitive ion channels represent another class of mechanoreceptors that are activated much more rapidly (within msec), and recent findings suggest that calcium influx through Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid-4 (TRPV4) channels expressed in the plasma membrane of bovine capillary endothelial cells is required for mechanical strain-induced changes in focal adhesion assembly, cell orientation and directional migration. However, whether mechanically stretching a cell’s extracellular matrix (ECM) adhesions might directly activate cell surface ion channels remains unknown. Here we show that forces applied to β1 integrins result in ultra-rapid (within 4 msec) activation of calcium influx through TRPV4 channels. The TRPV4 channels were specifically activated by mechanical strain in the cytoskeletal backbone of the focal adhesion, and not by deformation of the lipid bilayer or submembranous cortical cytoskeleton alone. This early-immediate calcium signaling response required the distal region of the β1 integrin cytoplasmic tail that contains a binding site for the integrin-associated transmembrane CD98 protein, and external force application to CD98 within focal adhesions activated the same ultra-rapid calcium signaling response. Local direct strain-dependent activation of TRPV4 channels mediated by force transfer from integrins and CD98 may therefore enable compartmentalization of calcium signaling within focal adhesions that is critical for mechanical control of many cell behaviors that underlie cell and tissue development.
The actin cross-linking protein filamin A reduces migration, invasion, and metastasis of breast cancer cells.
The actin cross-linking protein filamin A (FLNa) functions as a scaffolding protein and couples cell cytoskeleton to extracellular matrix and integrin receptor signaling. In this study, we report that FLNa suppresses invasion of breast cancer cells and regulates focal adhesion (FA) turnover. Two large progression tissue microarrays from breast cancer patients revealed a significant decrease of FLNa levels in tissues from invasive breast cancer compared with benign disease and in lymph node–positive compared with lymph node–negative breast cancer. In breast cancer cells and orthotopic mouse breast cancer models, down-regulation of FLNa stimulated cancer cell migration, invasion, and metastasis formation. Time-lapse microscopy and biochemical assays after FLNa silencing and rescue with wild-type or mutant protein resistant to calpain cleavage revealed that FLNa regulates FA disassembly at the leading edge of motile cells. Moreover, FLNa down-regulation enhanced calpain activity through the mitogen-activated protein kinase–extracellular signal-regulated kinase cascade and stimulated the cleavage of FA proteins. These results document a regulation of FA dynamics by FLNa in breast cancer cells.
When challenged with extracellular fluid shear stress, vascular endothelial cells are known to release nitric oxide, an important vasodilator. Here, we show that the ability of cultured endothelial cells to sense a low range of fluid shear depends on apical membrane organelles, called cilia, and that cilia are compartments required for proper localization and function of the mechanosensitive polycystin-1 molecule.
Methods and Results
Cells with the Pkd1null/null or Tg737orpk/orpk mutation encoded for polycystin-1 or polaris, respectively, are unable to transmit extracellular shear stress into intracellular calcium signaling and biochemical nitric oxide synthesis. Cytosolic calcium and nitric oxide recordings further show that fluid shear sensing is a cilia-specific mechanism because other mechanical or pharmacological stimulation does not abolish calcium and nitric oxide signaling in polycystin-1 and polaris mutant endothelial cells. Polycystin-1 localized in the basal body of Tg737orpk/orpk endothelial cells is insufficient for a fluid shear stress response. Furthermore, the optimal shear stress to which the cells respond best does not alter the apical cilia structure but modifies the responsiveness of cells to higher shear stresses through proteolytic modification of polycystin-1.
We demonstrate for the first time that polycystin-1 (required for cilia function) and polaris (required for cilia structure) are crucial mechanosensitive molecules in endothelial cells. We propose that a distinctive communication with the extracellular microenvironment depends on the proper localization and function of polycystin-1 in cilia.
blood flow; blood pressure; endothelium; endothelium-derived factors; physiology; polycystic kidney diseases
This article is based on a lecture I presented as the recipient of the 2009 Pritzker Distinguished Lecturer Award at the Biomedical Engineering Society annual meeting in October 2009. Here, I review more than thirty years of research from my laboratory, beginning with studies designed to test the theory that cells use tensegrity (tensional integrity) architecture to stabilize their shape and sense mechanical signals, which I believed to be critical for control of cell function and tissue development. Although I was trained as a cell biologist, I found that the tools I had at my disposal were insufficient to experimentally test these theories, and thus I ventured into engineering to find critical solutions. This path has been extremely fruitful as it has led to confirmation of the critical role that physical forces play in developmental control, as well as how cells sense and respond to mechanical signals at the molecular level through a process known as cellular mechanotransduction. Many of the predictions of the cellular tensegrity model relating to cell mechanical behaviors have been shown to be valid, and this vision of cell structure led to discovery of the central role that transmembrane adhesion receptors, such as integrins, and the cytoskeleton play in mechanosensing and mechanochemical conversion. In addition, these fundamental studies have led to significant unexpected technology fallout, including development of micromagnetic actuators for non-invasive control of cellular signaling, microfluidic systems as therapeutic extracorporeal devices for sepsis therapy, and new DNA-based nanobiotechnology approaches that permit construction of artificial tensegrities that mimic properties of living materials for applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
Mechanotransduction; Tensegrity; Cell mechanics; Prestress; Cytoskeleton; Integrin; Biomimetic
Tensegrity or tensional integrity is a property of a structure that relies on a balance between components that are either in pure compression or in pure tension for its stability [1,2]. Tensegrity structures exhibit extremely high strength-to-weight ratios and great resilience, and are therefore widely used in engineering, robotics and architecture [3,4]. Here we report nanoscale, prestressed, three-dimensional tensegrity structures in which rigid bundles of DNA double helices resist compressive forces exerted by segments of single-stranded DNA that act as tension-bearing cables. Our DNA tensegrity structures can self-assemble against forces up to 14 pN, which is twice the stall force of powerful molecular motors such as kinesin or myosin [5,6]. The forces generated by this molecular prestressing mechanism can be employed to bend the DNA bundles or to actuate the entire structure through enzymatic cleavage at specific sites. In addition to being building blocks for nanostructures, tensile structural elements made of single-stranded DNA could be used to study molecular forces, cellular mechanotransduction, and other fundamental biological processes.
The role of nutrients and metabolism in cellular differentiation is poorly understood. Using RNAi screening, metabolic profiling and small-molecule probes, we discovered three metabolic enzymes whose knockdown induces differentiation of mouse C2C12 myoblasts even in the presence mitogens: phosphoglycerate kinase (Pgk1), hexose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (H6pd) and ATP citrate lyase (Acl). These enzymes and the pathways they regulate provide novel targets for the control of myogenic differentiation in myoblasts and rhabdomyosarcoma cells.
taurodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA); glycochenodeoxycholic acid; 3-phosphoglycerate; phosphoenol pyruvate (PEP); cyclosporin A (CsA); trichostatin A (TSA); pravastatin; atorvastatin; fluvastatin
Mechanical stresses that are preferentially transmitted across the cell surface via transmembrane integrin receptors activate gene transcription by triggering production of intracellular chemical second messengers, such as cAMP. Here we show that the sensitivity of the cAMP signaling pathway to mechanical stresses transferred across β1 integrins is mediated by force-dependent activation of the heterotrimeric G protein subunit Gαs within focal adhesions at the site of stress application. Gαs is recruited to focal adhesions that form within minutes following clustering of β1 integrins induced by cell binding to magnetic microbeads coated with activating integrin ligands, and β1 integrin and Gαs co-precipitate when analyzed biochemically. Stress application to activated β1 integrins using magnetic twisting cytometry increases Gαs recruitment and activates these large G proteins within focal adhesions, as measured by binding of biotinylated azido-anilido-GTP, whereas application of similar stresses to inactivated, integrins or control histocompatibility antigens has little effect. This response is relevant physiologically as application of mechanical strain to cells bound to flexible extracellular matrix-coated substrates induce translocation of phospho-CREB to the nucleus, which can be attenuated by inhibiting Gαs activity, either using the inhibitor melittin or suppressing its expression using siRNA. Although integrins are not typical G protein-coupled receptors, these results show that integrins focus mechanical stresses locally on heterotrimeric G proteins within focal adhesions at the site of force application, and transduce mechanical stimuli into an intracellular cAMP signaling response by activating Gαs at these membrane signaling sites.
mechanotransduction; G protein; integrin; focal adhesion; shear stress; mechanical strain; magnetic
Cyclic mechanical strain produced by pulsatile blood flow regulates the orientation of endothelial cells lining blood vessels, and influences critical processes such as angiogenesis. Mechanical stimulation of stretch-activated calcium channels is known to mediate this reorientation response, however, the molecular basis remains unknown. Here we show that cyclically stretching capillary endothelial cells adherent to flexible extracellular matrix substrates activates mechanosensitive TRPV4 ion channels that, in turn, stimulate phosphatidyl inositol-3-kinase-dependent activation and binding of additional ·1 integrin receptors, which promotes cytoskeletal remodeling and cell reorientation. Inhibition of integrin activation using blocking antibodies and knockdown of TRPV4 channels using specific siRNA suppress strain-induced capillary cell reorientation. Thus, mechanical forces that physically deform extracellular matrix may guide capillary cell reorientation through a strain-dependent ‘integrin to integrin’ signaling mechanism mediated by force-induced activation of mechanically-gated TRPV4 ion channels on the cell surface.
mechanical strain; integrin; TRPV4; endothelial cell; reorientation; cytoskeleton
Angiogenesis is controlled by physical interactions between cells and extracellular matrix as well as soluble angiogenic factors, such as VEGF. However, the mechanism by which mechanical signals integrate with other microenvironmental cues to regulate neovascularization remains unknown. Here we show that the Rho inhibitor, p190RhoGAP, controls capillary network formation in vitro and retinal angiogenesis in vivo by modulating the balance of activities between two antagonistic transcription factors – TFII-I and GATA2 – that govern gene expression of the VEGF receptor, VEGFR2. Moreover, this novel angiogenesis signaling pathway is sensitive to extracellular matrix elasticity as well as soluble VEGF. This is the first known functional cross-antagonism between transcription factors that controls tissue morphogenesis, and that responds to both mechanical and chemical cues.
VEGFR2; p190RhoGAP; TFII-I; GATA2; mechanotransduction; angiogenesis; capillary endothelial cell
The formation of focal adhesions governs cell shape and function; however, there are few measurements of the binding kinetics of focal adhesion proteins in living cells. Here, we used the fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) technique, combined with mathematical modeling and scaling analysis to quantify dissociation kinetics of focal adhesion proteins in capillary endothelial cells. Novel experimental protocols based on mathematical analysis were developed to discern the rate-limiting step during FRAP. Values for the dissociation rate constant kOFF ranged over an order of magnitude from 0.009 ± 0.001/s for talin to 0.102 ± 0.010/s for FAK, indicating that talin is bound more strongly than other proteins in focal adhesions. Comparisons with in vitro measurements reveal that multiple focal adhesion proteins form a network of bonds, rather than binding in a pair-wise manner in these anchoring structures in living cells.
Stress fibers are contractile bundles in the cytoskeleton that stabilize cell structure by exerting traction forces on extracellular matrix. Individual stress fibers are molecular bundles composed of parallel actin and myosin filaments linked by various actin-binding proteins, which are organized end-on-end in a sarcomere-like pattern within an elongated three-dimensional network. While measurements of single stress fibers in living cells show that they behave like tensed viscoelastic fibers, precisely how this mechanical behavior arises from this complex supramolecular arrangement of protein components remains unclear. Here we show that computationally modeling a stress fiber as a multi-modular tensegrity network can predict several key behaviors of stress fibers measured in living cells, including viscoelastic retraction, fiber splaying after severing, non-uniform contraction, and elliptical strain of a puncture wound within the fiber. The tensegrity model also can explain how they simultaneously experience passive tension and generate active contraction forces; in contrast, a tensed cable net model predicts some, but not all, of these properties. Thus, tensegrity models may provide a useful link between molecular and cellular scale mechanical behaviors, and represent a new handle on multi-scale modeling of living materials.
Cell mechanics; cell structure; computer model; contractility; cytoskeleton; tensegrity
Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is upregulated in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells (PASMC) during hypoxia and may play a protective role in the lung’s response to hypoxia. Selective COX-2 inhibition may have detrimental pulmonary vascular consequences during hypoxia.
Methods and Results
To investigate the role of COX-2 in the pulmonary vascular response to hypoxia, we subjected wild-type and COX-2 deficient mice to a model of chronic normobaric hypoxia. COX-2 null mice developed severe pulmonary hypertension with exaggerated elevation of right ventricular systolic pressure, significant right ventricular hypertrophy, and striking vascular remodeling following hypoxia. Pulmonary vascular remodeling in COX-2 deficient mice was characterized by PASMC hypertrophy, but not increased proliferation. Furthermore, COX-2 deficient mice had significant upregulation of the ET-1 receptor (ETAR) in the lung following hypoxia. Similarly, selective pharmacologic inhibition of COX-2 in wild-type mice exacerbated hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension and resulted in PASMC hypertrophy and increased ETAR expression in pulmonary arterioles. Absence of COX-2 in vascular smooth muscle cells during hypoxia in vitro augmented traction forces and enhanced contractility of an extracellular matrix. Treatment of COX-2 deficient PASMC with iloprost, a prostaglandin (PG) I2 analog, as well as PGE2, abrogated the potent contractile response to hypoxia and restored the wild-type phenotype.
Our findings reveal that hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension and vascular remodeling is exacerbated in the absence of COX-2 with enhanced ETA receptor expression and increased PASMC hypertrophy. COX-2 deficient PASMC have a maladaptive response to hypoxia manifested by exaggerated contractility which may be rescued by either COX-2-derived PGI2 or PGE2.
hypertension; pulmonary; hypertrophy; hypoxia; prostaglandins; remodeling; vasculature
The spatial and temporal scales of cardiac organogenesis and pathogenesis make engineering of artificial heart tissue a daunting challenge. The temporal scales range from nanosecond conformational changes responsible for ion channel opening to fibrillation which occurs over seconds and can lead to death. Spatial scales range from nanometre pore sizes in membrane channels and gap junctions to the metre length scale of the whole cardiovascular system in a living patient. Synchrony over these scales requires a hierarchy of control mechanisms that are governed by a single common principle: integration of structure and function. To ensure that the function of ion channels and contraction of muscle cells lead to changes in heart chamber volume, an elegant choreography of metabolic, electrical and mechanical events are executed by protein networks composed of extracellular matrix, transmembrane integrin receptors and cytoskeleton which are functionally connected across all size scales. These structural control networks are mechanoresponsive, and they process mechanical and chemical signals in a massively parallel fashion, while also serving as a bidirectional circuit for information flow. This review explores how these hierarchical structural networks regulate the form and function of living cells and tissues, as well as how microfabrication techniques can be used to probe this structural control mechanism that maintains metabolic supply, electrical activation and mechanical pumping of heart muscle. Through this process, we delineate various design principles that may be useful for engineering artificial heart tissue in the future.
myocardial cell; cytoskeleton; integrin; extracellular matrix; mechanotransduction; microfabrication
The balance between maintenance of the stem cell state and terminal differentiation is influenced by the cellular environment. The switching between these states has long been understood as a transition between attractor states of a molecular network. Herein, stochastic fluctuations are either suppressed or can trigger the transition, but they do not actually determine the attractor states.
We present a novel mathematical concept in which stem cell and progenitor population dynamics are described as a probabilistic process that arises from cell proliferation and small fluctuations in the state of differentiation. These state fluctuations reflect random transitions between different activation patterns of the underlying regulatory network. Importantly, the associated noise amplitudes are state-dependent and set by the environment. Their variability determines the attractor states, and thus actually governs population dynamics. This model quantitatively reproduces the observed dynamics of differentiation and dedifferentiation in promyelocytic precursor cells.
Consequently, state-specific noise modulation by external signals can be instrumental in controlling stem cell and progenitor population dynamics. We propose follow-up experiments for quantifying the imprinting influence of the environment on cellular noise regulation.
Fibronectin polymerization is essential for the development and repair of the extracellular matrix. Consequently, deciphering the mechanism of fibronectin fibril formation is of immense interest. Fibronectin fibrillogenesis is driven by cell-traction forces that mechanically unfold particular modules within fibronectin. Previously, mechanical unfolding of fibronectin has been modeled by applying tensile forces at the N- and C-termini of fibronectin domains; however, physiological loading is likely focused on the solvent-exposed RGD loop in the 10th type-III repeat of fibronectin (10FNIII), which mediates binding to cell-surface integrin receptors. In this work we used steered molecular dynamics to study the mechanical unfolding of 10FNIII under tensile force applied at this RGD site. We demonstrate that mechanically unfolding 10FNIII by pulling at the RGD site requires less work than unfolding by pulling at the N- and C- termini. Moreover, pulling at the N- and C-termini leads to 10FNIII unfolding along several pathways while pulling on the RGD site leads to a single exclusive unfolding pathway that includes a partially unfolded intermediate with exposed hydrophobic N-terminal β-strands – residues that may facilitate fibronectin self-association. Additional mechanical unfolding triggers an essential arginine residue, which is required for high affinity binding to integrins, to move to a position far from the integrin binding site. This cell traction-induced conformational change may promote cell detachment after important partially unfolded kinetic intermediates are formed. These data suggest a novel mechanism that explains how cell-mediated forces promote fibronectin fibrillogenesis and how cell surface integrins detach from newly forming fibrils. This process enables cells to bind and unfold additional fibronectin modules – a method that propagates matrix assembly.
Cytoskeletal microtubules have been proposed to influence cell shape and mechanics based on their ability to resist large-scale compressive forces exerted by the surrounding contractile cytoskeleton. Consistent with this, cytoplasmic microtubules are often highly curved and appear buckled because of compressive loads. However, the results of in vitro studies suggest that microtubules should buckle at much larger length scales, withstanding only exceedingly small compressive forces. This discrepancy calls into question the structural role of microtubules, and highlights our lack of quantitative knowledge of the magnitude of the forces they experience and can withstand in living cells. We show that intracellular microtubules do bear large-scale compressive loads from a variety of physiological forces, but their buckling wavelength is reduced significantly because of mechanical coupling to the surrounding elastic cytoskeleton. We quantitatively explain this behavior, and show that this coupling dramatically increases the compressive forces that microtubules can sustain, suggesting they can make a more significant structural contribution to the mechanical behavior of the cell than previously thought possible.
Genome-wide gene expression profile studies encompass increasingly large number of samples, posing a challenge to their presentation and interpretation without losing the notion that each transcriptome constitutes a complex biological entity. Much like pathologists who visually analyze information-rich histological sections as a whole, we propose here an integrative approach. We use a self-organizing maps -based software, the gene expression dynamics inspector (GEDI) to analyze gene expression profiles of various lung tumors. GEDI allows the comparison of tumor profiles based on direct visual detection of transcriptome patterns. Such intuitive “gestalt” perception promotes the discovery of interesting relationships in the absence of an existing hypothesis. We uncovered qualitative relationships between squamous cell tumors, small-cell tumors, and carcinoid tumor that would have escaped existing algorithmic classifications. These results suggest that GEDI may be a valuable explorative tool that combines global and gene-centered analyses of molecular profiles from large-scale microarray experiments.
The capacity of integrins to mediate adhesiveness is modulated by their cytoplasmic associations. In this study, we describe a novel mechanism by which α4-integrin adhesiveness is regulated by the cytoskeletal adaptor paxillin. A mutation of the α4 tail that disrupts paxillin binding, α4(Y991A), reduced talin association to the α4β1 heterodimer, impaired integrin anchorage to the cytoskeleton, and suppressed α4β1-dependent capture and adhesion strengthening of Jurkat T cells to VCAM-1 under shear stress. The mutant retained intrinsic avidity to soluble or bead-immobilized VCAM-1, supported normal cell spreading at short-lived contacts, had normal α4-microvillar distribution, and responded to inside-out signals. This is the first demonstration that cytoskeletal anchorage of an integrin enhances the mechanical stability of its adhesive bonds under strain and, thereby, promotes its ability to mediate leukocyte adhesion under physiological shear stress conditions.