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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 1, 2024
  2. Structure-aware machine learning captures strain impact on molecule-surface interactions for rapid catalyst evaluation.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 25, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2024
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2023
  5. Abstract The formation and recovery of gaps in the vascular endothelium governs a wide range of physiological and pathological phenomena, from angiogenesis to tumor cell extravasation. However, the interplay between the mechanical and signaling processes that drive dynamic behavior in vascular endothelial cells is not well understood. In this study, we propose a chemo-mechanical model to investigate the regulation of endothelial junctions as dependent on the feedback between actomyosin contractility, VE-cadherin bond turnover, and actin polymerization, which mediate the forces exerted on the cell-cell interface. Simulations reveal that active cell tension can stabilize cadherin bonds, but excessive RhoA signaling can drive bond dissociation and junction failure. While actin polymerization aids gap closure, high levels of Rac1 can induce junction weakening. Combining the modeling framework with experiments, our model predicts the influence of pharmacological treatments on the junction state and identifies that a critical balance between RhoA and Rac1 expression is required to maintain junction stability. Our proposed framework can help guide the development of therapeutics that target the Rho family of GTPases and downstream active mechanical processes.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  6. Cells can sense and respond to mechanical forces in fibrous extracellular matrices (ECMs) over distances much greater than their size. This phenomenon, termed long-range force transmission, is enabled by the realignment (buckling) of collagen fibers along directions where the forces are tensile (compressive). However, whether other key structural components of the ECM, in particular glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), can affect the efficiency of cellular force transmission remains unclear. Here we developed a theoretical model of force transmission in collagen networks with interpenetrating GAGs, capturing the competition between tension-driven collagen fiber alignment and the swelling pressure induced by GAGs. Using this model, we show that the swelling pressure provided by GAGs increases the stiffness of the collagen network by stretching the fibers in an isotropic manner. We found that the GAG-induced swelling pressure can help collagen fibers resist buckling as the cells exert contractile forces. This mechanism impedes the alignment of collagen fibers and decreases long-range cellular mechanical communication. We experimentally validated the theoretical predictions by comparing the intensity of collagen fiber alignment between cellular spheroids cultured on collagen gels versus collagen–GAG cogels. We found significantly lower intensities of aligned collagen in collagen–GAG cogels, consistent with the prediction that GAGs can prevent collagenmore »fiber alignment. The role of GAGs in modulating force transmission uncovered in this work can be extended to understand pathological processes such as the formation of fibrotic scars and cancer metastasis, where cells communicate in the presence of abnormally high concentrations of GAGs.« less
  7. Cells can respond to signals generated by other cells that are remarkably far away. Studies from at least the 1920's showed that cells move toward each other when the distance between them is on the order of a millimeter, which is many times the cell diameter. Chemical signals generated by molecules diffusing from the cell surface would move too slowly and dissipate too fast to account for these effects, suggesting that they might be physical rather than biochemical. The non-linear elastic responses of sparsely connected networks of stiff or semiflexible filament such as those that form the extracellular matrix (ECM) and the cytoskeleton have unusual properties that suggest multiple mechanisms for long-range signaling in biological tissues. These include not only direct force transmission, but also highly non-uniform local deformations, and force-generated changes in fiber alignment and density. Defining how fibrous networks respond to cell-generated forces can help design new methods to characterize abnormal tissues and can guide development of improved biomimetic materials.
  8. Abstract Sustained proliferation is a significant driver of cancer progression. Cell-cycle advancement is coupled with cell size, but it remains unclear how multiple cells interact to control their volume in 3D clusters. In this study, we propose a mechano-osmotic model to investigate the evolution of volume dynamics within multicellular systems. Volume control depends on an interplay between multiple cellular constituents, including gap junctions, mechanosensitive ion channels, energy-consuming ion pumps, and the actomyosin cortex, that coordinate to manipulate cellular osmolarity. In connected cells, we show that mechanical loading leads to the emergence of osmotic pressure gradients between cells with consequent increases in cellular ion concentrations driving swelling. We identify how gap junctions can amplify spatial variations in cell volume within multicellular spheroids and, further, describe how the process depends on proliferation-induced solid stress. Our model may provide new insight into the role of gap junctions in breast cancer progression.