skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on September 28, 2023

Title: Exploring the difference in the mechanics of vascular smooth muscle cells from wild type and apolipoprotein-E knockout mice
Atherosclerosis-related cardiovascular diseases are a leading cause of mortality worldwide. Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) comprise the medial layer of the arterial wall and undergo phenotypic switching during atherosclerosis to a synthetic phenotype capable of proliferation and migration. The surrounding environment undergoes alterations in extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffness and composition in addition to an increase in addition to an increase in cholesterol content. Using an atherosclerotic murine model, we analyzed how the mechanics of VSMCs isolated from western diet fed apolipoprotein-E knockout (ApoE -/- ) and wild type (WT) mice were altered during atherosclerosis. Increased stiffness of ApoE -/- VSMCs correlated with a greater degree of stress fiber alignment as evidenced by atomic force microscopy (AFM)-generated force maps and stress fiber topography images. On type-1 collagen (COL1)-coated polyacrylamide (PA) gels of varying stiffness, WT VSMCs had higher adhesion forces to N-Cadherin (N-Cad) and COL1. ApoE -/- VSMC stiffness was significantly greater than WT cells with increased cell stiffness with increasing substrate stiffness for both ApoE -/- and WT VSMCs . In addition, ApoE -/- VSMCs showed an enhanced migration capability on COL1-coated substrates and a general decreasing trend in migration capacity with increasing substrate stiffness, correlating with the lower adhesion more » forces as compared to WT VSMCs. Altogether, these results demonstrate the potential contribution of the alteration in VSMC mechanics in the development of atherosclerosis. « less
; ; ; ; ;
Award ID(s):
2127031 2304667
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Vascular cells restructure extracellular matrix in response to aging or changes in mechanical loading. Here, we characterized collagen architecture during age-related aortic remodeling in atherosclerosis-prone mice. We hypothesized that changes in collagen fiber orientation reflect an altered balance between passive and active forces acting on the arterial wall. We examined two factors that can alter this balance, endothelial dysfunction and reduced smooth muscle cell (SMC) contractility. Collagen fiber organization was visualized by second-harmonic generation microscopy in aortic adventitia of apolipoprotein E (apoE) knockout (KO) mice at 6 wk and 6 mo of age on a chow diet and at 7.5 mo of age on a Western diet (WD), using image analysis to yield mean fiber orientation. Adventitial collagen fibers became significantly more longitudinally oriented with aging in apoE knockout mice on chow diet. Conversely, fibers became more circumferentially oriented with aging in mice on WD. Total collagen content increased significantly with age in mice fed WD. We compared expression of endothelial nitric oxide synthase and acetylcholine-mediated nitric oxide release but found no evidence of endothelial dysfunction in older mice. Time-averaged volumetric blood flow in all groups showed no significant changes. Wire myography of aortic rings revealed decreases in active stress generation with agemore »that were significantly exacerbated in WD mice. We conclude that the aorta displays a distinct remodeling response to atherogenic stimuli, indicated by altered collagen organization. Collagen reorganization can occur in the absence of altered hemodynamics and may represent an adaptive response to reduced active stress generation by vascular SMCs. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The following major observations were made in this study: 1) aortic adventitial collagen fibers become more longitudinally oriented with aging in apolipoprotein E knockout mice fed a chow diet; 2) conversely, adventitial collagen fibers become more circumferentially oriented with aging in apoE knockout mice fed a high-fat diet; 3) adventitial collagen content increases significantly with age in mice on a high-fat diet; 4) these alterations in collagen organization occur largely in the absence of hemodynamic changes; and 5) circumferential reorientation of collagen is associated with decreased active force generation (contractility) in aged mice on a high-fat diet.« less
  2. Abstract

    Cell migration and traction are essential to many biological phenomena, and one of their key features is sensitivity to substrate stiffness, which biophysical models, such as the motor‐clutch model and the cell migration simulator can predict and explain. However, these models have not accounted for the finite size of adhesions, the spatial distribution of forces within adhesions. Here, we derive an expression that relates varying adhesion radius (R) and spatial distribution of force within an adhesion (described bys) to the effective substrate stiffness (κsub), as a function of the Young's modulus of the substrate (EY), which yields the relation,, for two‐dimensional cell cultures. Experimentally, we found that a cone‐shaped force distribution (s= 1.05) can describe the observed displacements of hydrogels deformed by adherent U251 glioma cells. Also, we found that the experimentally observed adhesion radius increases linearly with the cell protrusion force, consistent with the predictions of the motor‐clutch model with spatially distributed clutches. We also found that, theoretically, the influence of one protrusion on another through a continuous elastic environment is negligible. Overall, we conclude cells can potentially control their own interpretation of the mechanics of the environment by controlling adhesion size and spatial distribution ofmore »forces within an adhesion.

    « less
  3. Cellular traction forces that are dependent on actin-myosin activity are necessary for numerous developmental and physiological processes. As traction force emerges as a promising cancer biomarker there is a growing need to understand force generation in response to chemical and mechanical cues. Our goal is to present a unified modeling framework that integrates actin-myosin activity, substrate stiffness, integrin bond type, and adhesion complex dynamics to explain how force develops under specific conditions. Our simulation results show that substrate stiffness and number of myosin motors contribute to the maximum actin-myosin forces that can be generated but do not solely control the force transmitted by the cells to the surface, i.e., the traction force. The kinetics of the bonds between the cell and the substrate plays an equally important role. Overall, we find that while the cell can generate large actin-myosin forces in individual stress fibers ( > 300 pN), the maximum force transmitted to the surface per cell-substrate attachment only reaches a fraction of these values (approx. 50 pN). Traction stress, the sum of forces transferred by all cell-substrate attachments in a unit area, is biphasic or sigmoidal with increasing substrate stiffness depending on the number of active myosin motors generating forces. Finally,more »we conclude that adhesions < 1  μm 2 generate widely variable traction forces and that impulse, the magnitude and duration of a force generating event, is a key limiting factor in traction stress.« less
  4. Mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix are important determinants of cellular migration in diverse processes, such as immune response, wound healing, and cancer metastasis. Moreover, recent studies indicate that even bacterial surface colonization can depend on the mechanics of the substrate. Here, we focus on physical mechanisms that can give rise to substrate-rigidity dependent migration. We study a “twitcher”, a cell driven by extension–retraction cycles, to idealize bacteria and perhaps eukaryotic cells that employ a slip-stick mode of motion. The twitcher is asymmetric and always pulls itself forward at its front. Analytical calculations show that the migration speed of a twitcher depends non-linearly on substrate rigidity. For soft substrates, deformations do not lead to build-up of significant force and the migration speed is therefore determined by stochastic adhesion unbinding. For rigid substrates, forced adhesion rupture determines the migration speed. Depending on the force-sensitivity of front and rear adhesions, forced bond rupture implies an increase or a decrease of the migration speed. A requirement for the occurrence of rigidity-dependent stick-slip migration is a “sticky” substrate, with binding rates being an order of magnitude larger than unbinding rates in absence of force. Computer simulations show that small stall forces of the drivingmore »machinery lead to a reduced movement on high rigidities, regardless of force-sensitivities of bonds. The simulations also confirm the occurrence of rigidity-dependent migration speed in a generic model for slip-stick migration of cells on a sticky substrate.« less
  5. Cellular unjamming is the collective fluidization of cell motion and has been linked to many biological processes, including development, wound repair, and tumor growth. In tumor growth, the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in a confined space generates mechanical compressive stress. However, because multiple cellular and molecular mechanisms may be operating simultaneously, the role of compressive stress in unjamming transitions during cancer progression remains unknown. Here, we investigate which mechanism dominates in a dense, mechanically stressed monolayer. We find that long-term mechanical compression triggers cell arrest in benign epithelial cells and enhances cancer cell migration in transitions correlated with cell shape, leading us to examine the contributions of cell–cell adhesion and substrate traction in unjamming transitions. We show that cadherin-mediated cell–cell adhesion regulates differential cellular responses to compressive stress and is an important driver of unjamming in stressed monolayers. Importantly, compressive stress does not induce the epithelial–mesenchymal transition in unjammed cells. Furthermore, traction force microscopy reveals the attenuation of traction stresses in compressed cells within the bulk monolayer regardless of cell type and motility. As traction within the bulk monolayer decreases with compressive pressure, cancer cells at the leading edge of the cell layer exhibit sustained traction under compression. Together,more »strengthened intercellular adhesion and attenuation of traction forces within the bulk cell sheet under compression lead to fluidization of the cell layer and may impact collective cell motion in tumor development and breast cancer progression.« less