Early-time dynamics of actomyosin polarization in cells of confined shape in elastic matrices

Noam Nisenholz, Mordechai Botton, Assaf Zemel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The cell shape and the rigidity of the extracellular matrix have been shown to play an important role in the regulation of cytoskeleton structure and force generation. Elastic stresses that develop by actomyosin contraction feedback on myosin activity and govern the anisotropic polarization of stress fibers in the cell. We theoretically study the consequences that the cell shape and matrix rigidity may have on the dynamics and steady state polarization of actomyosin forces in the cell. Actomyosin forces are assumed to polarize in accordance with the stresses that develop in the cytoskeleton. The theory examines this self-polarization process as a relaxation response determined by two distinct susceptibility factors and two characteristic times. These reveal two canonical polarization responses to local variations in the elastic stress: an isotropic response, in which actomyosin dipolar stress isotropically changes in magnitude, and an orientational response, in which actomyosin forces orient with no net change in magnitude. Actual polarization may show up as a superimposition of the two mechanisms yielding different phases in the polarization response as observed experimentally. The cell shape and elastic moduli of the surroundings are shown to govern both the dynamics of the process as well as the steady-state. We predict that in the steady-state, beyond a critical matrix rigidity, spherical cells exert maximal force, and below that rigidity, elongated or flattened cells exert more force. Similar behaviors are reflected in the rate of the polarization process. The theory is also applicable to study the elastic response of whole cell aggregates in a gel. This journal is

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2453-2462
Number of pages10
JournalSoft Matter
Issue number14
StatePublished - 14 Apr 2014


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