Traction Force Screening Enabled by Compliant PDMS Elastomers.
ABSTRACT: Actomyosin contractility is an essential element of many aspects of cellular biology and manifests as traction forces that cells exert on their surroundings. The central role of these forces makes them a novel principal therapeutic target in diverse diseases. This requires accurate and higher-capacity measurements of traction forces; however, existing methods are largely low throughput, limiting their utility in broader applications. To address this need, we employ Fourier-transform traction force microscopy in a parallelized 96-well format, which we refer to as contractile force screening. Critically, rather than the frequently employed hydrogel polyacrylamide, we fabricate these plates using polydimethylsiloxane rubber. Key to this approach is that the polydimethylsiloxane used is very compliant, with a lower-bound Young's modulus of ?0.4 kPa. We subdivide these monolithic substrates spatially into biochemically independent wells, creating a uniform multiwell platform for traction force screening. We demonstrate the utility and versatility of this platform by quantifying the compound and dose-dependent contractility responses of human airway smooth muscle cells and retinal pigment epithelial cells. By directly quantifying the endpoint of therapeutic intent, airway-smooth-muscle contractile force, this approach fills an important methodological void in current screening approaches for bronchodilator drug discovery, and, more generally, in measuring contractile response for a broad range of cell types and pathologies.
Project description:We describe a method for quantifying the contractile forces that tumor spheroids collectively exert on highly nonlinear three-dimensional collagen networks. While three-dimensional traction force microscopy for single cells in a nonlinear matrix is computationally complex due to the variable cell shape, here we exploit the spherical symmetry of tumor spheroids to derive a scale-invariant relationship between spheroid contractility and the surrounding matrix deformations. This relationship allows us to directly translate the magnitude of matrix deformations to the total contractility of arbitrarily sized spheroids. We show that our method is accurate up to strains of 50% and remains valid even for irregularly shaped tissue samples when considering only the deformations in the far field. Finally, we demonstrate that collective forces of tumor spheroids reflect the contractility of individual cells for up to 1 hr after seeding, while collective forces on longer timescales are guided by mechanical feedback from the extracellular matrix.
Project description:During tumorigenesis, matrix rigidity can drive oncogenic transformation via altered cellular proliferation and migration. Cells sense extracellular matrix (ECM) mechanical properties with intracellular tensile forces generated by actomyosin contractility. These contractile forces are transmitted to the matrix surface as traction stresses, which mediate mechanical interactions with the ECM. Matrix rigidity has been shown to increase proteolytic ECM degradation by cytoskeletal structures known as invadopodia that are critical for cancer progression, suggesting that cellular contractility promotes invasive behavior. However, both increases and decreases in traction stresses have been associated with metastatic behavior. Therefore, the role of cellular contractility in invasive migration leading to metastasis is unclear. To determine the relationship between cellular traction stresses and invadopodia activity, we characterized the invasive and contractile properties of an aggressive carcinoma cell line utilizing polyacrylamide gels of different rigidities. We found that ECM degradation and traction stresses were linear functions of matrix rigidity. Using calyculin A to augment myosin contractility, we also found that traction stresses were strongly predictive of ECM degradation. Overall, our data suggest that cellular force generation may play an important part in invasion and metastasis by mediating invadopodia activity in response to the mechanical properties of the tumor microenvironment.
Project description:When cellular contractile forces are central to pathophysiology, these forces comprise a logical target of therapy. Nevertheless, existing high-throughput screens are limited to upstream signalling intermediates with poorly defined relationships to such a physiological endpoint. Using cellular force as the target, here we report a new screening technology and demonstrate its applications using human airway smooth muscle cells in the context of asthma and Schlemm's canal endothelial cells in the context of glaucoma. This approach identified several drug candidates for both asthma and glaucoma. We attained rates of 1000 compounds per screening day, thus establishing a force-based cellular platform for high-throughput drug discovery.
Project description:Mechanical traction forces exerted by adherent cells on their surroundings serve an important role in a multitude of cellular and physiological processes including cell motility and multicellular rearrangements. For endothelial cells, contraction also provides a means to disrupt cell-cell junctions during inflammation to increase permeability between blood and interstitial tissue compartments. The degree of contractility exhibited by endothelial cells is influenced by numerous soluble factors, such as thrombin, histamine, lysophosphatidic acid, sphingosine-1-phosphate, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Upon binding to cell surface receptors, these agents trigger changes in cytoskeletal organization, adhesion and myosin II activity to varying degrees. While conventional antibody-based biochemical assays are suitable for detecting relatively large changes in biomarkers of contractility in an end-point format, they cannot resolve subtle or rapid changes in contractility and cannot do so noninvasively. To overcome these limitations, we developed an approach to measure the contractile response of single cells exposed to contractility agonists with high spatiotemporal resolution. A previously developed traction force sensor, comprised of dense arrays of elastomeric microposts on which cells are cultured, was combined with custom, semi-automated software developed here to extract strain energy measurements from thousands of time-lapse images of micropost arrays deformed by adherent cells. Using this approach we corroborated the differential effects of known agonists of contractility and characterized the dynamics of their effects. All of these agonists produced a characteristic first-order rise and plateau in forces, except VEGF, which stimulated an early transient spike in strain energy followed by a sustained increase. This novel, two-phase contractile response was present in a subpopulation of cells, was mediated through both VEGFR2 and ROCK activation, and its magnitude was modulated by receptor internalization. Interestingly, the concentration of VEGF could shift the proportion of cells that responded with a spike versus only a gradual increase in forces. Furthermore, cells repeatedly exposed to VEGF were found to contract with different dynamics after pretreatment, suggesting that exposure history can impact the mechanical response. These studies highlight the importance of direct measurements of traction force dynamics as a tool for studies of mechanotransduction.
Project description:Cancer cells are surrounded by a mechanically and biochemically distinct microenvironment that undergoes dynamic changes throughout the neoplastic progression. During this progression, some cancer cells acquire abnormal characteristics that potentiate their escape from the primary tumor site, to establish secondary tumors in distant organs. Recent studies with several human cancer cell lines have shown that the altered physical properties of tumor cells, such as their ability to apply high traction forces to the surroundings, are directly linked with their potential to invade and metastasize. To test the hypothetical interconnection between actomyosin-mediated traction forces and invasion potential within 3D-microenvironment, we utilized two canine mammary tumor cell lines with different contractile properties. These cell lines, canine mammary tumor (CMT)-U27 and CMT-U309, were found to have distinct expression patterns of lineage-specific markers and organization of actin-based structures. In particular, CMT-U309 carcinoma cells were typified by thick contractile actomyosin bundles that exerted high forces to their environment, as measured by traction force microscopy. These high contractile forces also correlated with the prominent invasiveness of the CMT-U309 cell line. Furthermore, we found high contractility and 3D-invasion potential to be dependent on the activity of 5'AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), as blocking AMPK signaling was found to reverse both of these features. Taken together, our findings implicate that actomyosin forces correlate with the invasion potential of the studied cell lines.
Project description:We used principal component analysis to dissect the mechanics of chemotaxis of amoeboid cells into a reduced set of dominant components of cellular traction forces and shape changes. The dominant traction force component in wild-type cells accounted for ~40% of the mechanical work performed by these cells, and consisted of the cell attaching at front and back contracting the substrate towards its centroid (pole-force). The time evolution of this pole-force component was responsible for the periodic variations of cell length and strain energy that the cells underwent during migration. We identified four additional canonical components, reproducible from cell to cell, overall accounting for an additional ~20% of mechanical work, and associated with events such as lateral protrusion of pseudopodia. We analyzed mutant strains with contractility defects to quantify the role that non-muscle Myosin II (MyoII) plays in amoeboid motility. In MyoII essential light chain null cells the polar-force component remained dominant. On the other hand, MyoII heavy chain null cells exhibited a different dominant traction force component, with a marked increase in lateral contractile forces, suggesting that cortical contractility and/or enhanced lateral adhesions are important for motility in this cell line. By compressing the mechanics of chemotaxing cells into a reduced set of temporally-resolved degrees of freedom, the present study may contribute to refined models of cell migration that incorporate cell-substrate interactions. ELECTRONIC SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL: The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12195-011-0184-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Project description:The mechanical interaction between adherent cells and their substrate relies on the formation of adhesion sites and on the stabilization of contractile acto-myosin bundles, or stress fibers. The shape of the cell and the orientation of these fibers can be controlled by adhesive patterning. On nonadhesive gaps, fibroblasts develop thick peripheral stress fibers, with a concave curvature. The radius of curvature of these arcs results from the balance of the line tension in the arc and of the surface tension in the cell bulk. However, the nature of these forces, and in particular the contribution of myosin-dependent contractility, is not clear. To get insight into the force balance, we inhibit myosin activity and simultaneously monitor the dynamics of peripheral arc radii and traction forces. We use these measurements to estimate line and surface tension. We found that myosin inhibition led to a decrease in the traction forces and an increase in arc radius, indicating that both line tension and surface tension dropped, but the line tension decreased to a lesser extent than surface tension. These results suggest that myosin-independent force contributes to tension in the peripheral arcs. We propose a simple physical model in which the peripheral arc line tension is due to the combination of myosin II contractility and a passive elastic component, while surface tension is largely due to active contractility. Numerical solutions of this model reproduce well the experimental data and allow estimation of the contributions of elasticity and contractility to the arc line tension.
Project description:Traction forces exerted by adherent cells on their microenvironment can mediate many critical cellular functions. Accurate quantification of these forces is essential for mechanistic understanding of mechanotransduction. However, most existing methods of quantifying cellular forces are limited to single cells in isolation, whereas most physiological processes are inherently multi-cellular in nature where cell-cell and cell-microenvironment interactions determine the emergent properties of cell clusters. In the present study, a robust finite-element-method-based cell traction force microscopy technique is developed to estimate the traction forces produced by multiple isolated cells as well as cell clusters on soft substrates. The method accounts for the finite thickness of the substrate. Hence, cell cluster size can be larger than substrate thickness. The method allows computing the traction field from the substrate displacements within the cells' and clusters' boundaries. The displacement data outside these boundaries are not necessary. The utility of the method is demonstrated by computing the traction generated by multiple monkey kidney fibroblasts (MKF) and human colon cancerous (HCT-8) cells in close proximity, as well as by large clusters. It is found that cells act as individual contractile groups within clusters for generating traction. There may be multiple of such groups in the cluster, or the entire cluster may behave a single group. Individual cells do not form dipoles, but serve as a conduit of force (transmission lines) over long distances in the cluster. The cell-cell force can be either tensile or compressive depending on the cell-microenvironment interactions.
Project description:Focal adhesions mediate force transfer between ECM-integrin complexes and the cytoskeleton. Although vinculin has been implicated in force transmission, few direct measurements have been made, and there is little mechanistic insight. Using vinculin-null cells expressing vinculin mutants, we demonstrate that vinculin is not required for transmission of adhesive and traction forces but is necessary for myosin contractility-dependent adhesion strength and traction force and for the coupling of cell area and traction force. Adhesion strength and traction forces depend differentially on vinculin head (V(H)) and tail domains. V(H) enhances adhesion strength by increasing ECM-bound integrin-talin complexes, independently from interactions with vinculin tail ligands and contractility. A full-length, autoinhibition-deficient mutant (T12) increases adhesion strength compared with VH, implying roles for both vinculin activation and the actin-binding tail. In contrast to adhesion strength, vinculin-dependent traction forces absolutely require a full-length and activated molecule; V(H) has no effect. Physical linkage of the head and tail domains is required for maximal force responses. Residence times of vinculin in focal adhesions, but not T12 or V(H), correlate with applied force, supporting a mechanosensitive model for vinculin activation in which forces stabilize vinculin's active conformation to promote force transfer.
Project description:The intracellular scaffold protein IQGAP1 supports protein complexes in conjunction with numerous binding partners involved in multiple cellular processes. Here, we determined that IQGAP1 modulates airway smooth muscle contractility. Compared with WT controls, at baseline as well as after immune sensitization and challenge, Iqgap1-/- mice had higher airway responsiveness. Tracheal rings from Iqgap1-/- mice generated greater agonist-induced contractile force, even after removal of the epithelium. RhoA, a regulator of airway smooth muscle contractility, was activated in airway smooth muscle lysates from Iqgap1-/- mice. Likewise, knockdown of IQGAP1 in primary human airway smooth muscle cells increased RhoA activity. Immunoprecipitation studies indicated that IQGAP1 binds to both RhoA and p190A-RhoGAP, a GTPase-activating protein that normally inhibits RhoA activation. Proximity ligation assays in primary airway human smooth muscle cells and mouse tracheal sections revealed colocalization of p190A-RhoGAP and RhoA; however, these proteins did not colocalize in IQGAP1 knockdown cells or in Iqgap1-/- trachea. Compared with healthy controls, human subjects with asthma had decreased IQGAP1 expression in airway biopsies. Together, these data demonstrate that IQGAP1 acts as a scaffold that colocalizes p190A-RhoGAP and RhoA, inactivating RhoA and suppressing airway smooth muscle contraction. Furthermore, our results suggest that IQGAP1 has the potential to modulate airway contraction severity in acute asthma.