Probing Single-Cell Mechanical Allostasis Using Ultrasound Tweezers

Weiyi Qian, Weiqiang Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Introduction: In response to external stress, cells alter their morphology, metabolic activity, and functions to mechanically adapt to the dynamic, local environment through cell allostasis. To explore mechanotransduction in cellular allostasis, we applied an integrated micromechanical system that combines an ‘ultrasound tweezers’-based mechanical stressor and a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based molecular force biosensor, termed “actinin-sstFRET,” to monitor in situ single-cell allostasis in response to transient stimulation in real time. Methods: The ultrasound tweezers utilize 1 Hz, 10-s transient ultrasound pulses to acoustically excite a lipid-encapsulated microbubble, which is bound to the cell membrane, and apply a pico- to nano-Newton range of forces to cells through an RGD-integrin linkage. The actinin-sstFRET molecular sensor, which engages the actin stress fibers in live cells, is used to map real-time actomyosin force dynamics over time. Then, the mechanosensitive behaviors were examined by profiling the dynamics in Ca2+ influx, actomyosin cytoskeleton (CSK) activity, and GTPase RhoA signaling to define a single-cell mechanical allostasis. Results: By subjecting a 1 Hz, 10-s physical stress, single vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) were observed to remodeled themselves in a biphasic mechanical allostatic manner within 30 min that caused them to adjust their contractility and actomyosin activities. The cellular machinery that underscores the vital role of CSK equilibrium in cellular mechanical allostasis, includes Ca2+ influx, remodeling of actomyosin CSK and contraction, and GTPase RhoA signaling. Mechanical allostasis was observed to be compromised in VSMCs from patients with type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM), which could potentiate an allostatic maladaptation. Conclusions: By integrating tools that simultaneously permit localized mechanical perturbation and map actomyosin forces, we revealed distinct cellular mechanical allostasis profiles in our micromechanical system. Our findings of cell mechanical allostasis and maladaptation provide the potential for mechanophenotyping cells to reveal their pathogenic contexts and their biophysical mediators that underlie multi-etiological diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, or aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-427
Number of pages13
JournalCellular and Molecular Bioengineering
Volume12
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

Keywords

  • Acoustic tweezers
  • Cellular allostasis
  • Diabetes
  • FRET
  • Mechanotransduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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