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The Cytoskeleton and Force Response MechanismsThe long term aim of this project was to define the mechanisms by which cells sense and respond to the physical forces experienced at 1g and missing in microgravity. Identification and characterization of the elements of the cells force response mechanism could provide pathways and molecules to serve as targets for pharmacological intervention to mitigate the pathologic effects of microgravity. Mechanical forces experienced by the organism can be transmitted to cells through molecules that allow cells to bind to the extracellular matrix and through other types of molecules which bind cells to each other. These molecules are coupled in large complexes of proteins to structural elements such as the actin cytoskeleton that give the cell the ability to sense, resist and respond to force. Application of small forces to tissue culture cells causes local elevation of intracellular calcium through stretch activated ion channels, increased tyrosine phosphorylation and a restructuring of the actin cytoskeleton. Using collagen coated iron oxide beads and strong magnets, we can apply different levels of force to cells in culture. We have found that force application causes the cells to polymerize actin at the site of mechanical deformation and unexpectedly, to depolymerize actin across the rest of the cell. Observations of GFP- actin expressing cells demonstrate that actin accumulates at the site of deformation within the first five minutes of force application and is maintained for many tens of minutes after force is removed. Consistent with the reinforcement of the cytoskeletal structures underlying the integrin-bead interaction, force also alters the motion of bound magnetic beads. This effect is seen following the removal of the magnetic field, and is only partially ablated by actin disruption with cytochalsin B. While actin is polymerizing locally at the site of force application, force also stimulates a global reduction in actin filament content within the cells. We have examined the roles of several actin filament disassembly factors in the global reduction of cellular actin filaments. The calcium regulated actin filament severing protein gelsolin is not necessary for the increased actin turnover, as cells derived from gelsolin null and wildtype mice still show a reduction in total actin filament content. Instead, our work suggests that the actin binding protein cofilin may be important for these changes in actin dynamics. Cofilin binds to and enhances the disassembly of actin filaments. Using immunological methods, we observe transient changes in the phosphorylation state of cofilin upon force application that suggests that cofilin may mediate actin filament turnover. Early after force application, cofilin is transiently dephosphorylated, activating its actin disassembly activity. Subsequently, we find a hyper-phosphorylation of cofilin, rendering it inactive. This reduction in cofilin activity may explain the stability of the force induced actin structuttes. In testing this hypothesis, we aimed to generate cells that express the constituitively active kinase (LIM-kinase) that phosphorylates cofilin. lnidial attempts in the cell lines used for the our previous studies proved unsuccessful. While we prepare this work for pubication, we are continuing to study other cell lines and tissue sources to determine whether they show a reduction in F-actin content after force application.
Document ID
Document Type
Contractor or Grantee Report
Allen, Philip Goodwin
(Brigham and Women's Hospital Boston, MA, United States)
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2003
Subject Category
Inorganic, Organic And Physical Chemistry
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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