12th Annual Symposium
Physics of Cancer
Leipzig, Germany
Aug 30 - Sept 1, 2021
Vimentin intermediate filaments mediate cell shape on viscoelastic substrates
Maxx Swoger, Sarthak Gupta, Alison Patteson
Physics Department and BioInspired Institute, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, United States
The ability of cells to take and change shape is a fundamental feature underlying development, wound repair, and tissue maintenance. Central to this process is physical and signaling interactions between the three cytoskeletal polymeric networks: F-actin, microtubules, and intermediate filaments (IFs). Vimentin is an IF protein that is essential to the mechanical resilience of cells and regulates cross-talk amongst the cytoskeleton, but its role in how cells sense and respond to the surrounding extracellular matrix is largely unclear. To investigate vimentin’s role in substrate sensing, we designed polyacrylamide hydrogels that mimic the elastic and viscoelastic nature of in vivo tissues. Using wild-type and vimentin-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts, we show that vimentin enhances cell spreading on viscoelastic substrates, even though it has little effect in the limit of purely elastic substrates. Our results provide compelling evidence that the vimentin cytoskeletal network is a physical modulator of how cells sense and respond to mechanical properties of their extracellular environment.
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