Cell shape, spreading symmetry, and the polarization of stress-fibers in cells

A. Zemel*, F. Rehfeldt, A. E.X. Brown, D. E. Discher, S. A. Safran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations

Abstract

The active regulation of cellular forces during cell adhesion plays an important role in the determination of cell size, shape, and internal structure. While on flat, homogeneous and isotropic substrates some cells spread isotropically, others spread anisotropically and assume elongated structures. In addition, in their native environment as well as in vitro experiments, the cell shape and spreading asymmetry can be modulated by the local distribution of adhesive molecules and topography of the environment. We present a simple elastic model and experiments on stem cells to explain the variation of cell size with the matrix rigidity. In addition, we predict the experimental consequences of two mechanisms of acto-myosin polarization and focus here on the effect of the cell spreading asymmetry on the regulation of the stress-fiber alignment in the cytoskeleton. We show that when cell spreading is sufficiently asymmetric the alignment of acto-myosin forces in the cell increases monotonically with the matrix rigidity; however, in general this alignment is non-monotonic, as shown previously. These results highlight the importance of the symmetry characteristics of cell spreading in the regulation of cytoskeleton structure and suggest a mechanism by which different cell types may acquire different morphologies and internal structures in different mechanical environments.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number194110
JournalJournal of Physics Condensed Matter
Volume22
Issue number19
DOIs
StatePublished - 2010

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