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    Dynamics of mechanical signal transmission through prestressed stress fibers

    On July 9, 2012

    Yongyun Hwang and Abdul Barakat publish a new article in PLOS One.

    How do cells sense force? Transmission of mechanical stimuli through the actin cytoskeleton has been proposed as a mechanism for rapid long-distance mechanotransduction in cells; however, a quantitative understanding of the dynamics of this transmission and the physical factors governing it remains lacking. In a paper recently published in PLOS One, Yongyun Hwang and Abdul Barakat develop a model of mechanical signal transmission through prestressed viscoelastic actin stress fibers that directly connect the cell surface to the nucleus. They focus first on the case of a single stress fiber subjected to a stationary or oscillatory mechanical signal. Their analysis shows that the dynamics of mechanical signal transmission depend on whether the applied force leads to transverse or axial motion of the stress fiber. Importantly, only transverse motion yields the rapid and long-distance mechanical signal transmission dynamics observed experimentally. For simple networks of stress fibers, mechanical signals are transmitted rapidly to the nucleus when the fibers are oriented largely orthogonal to the applied force, whereas the presence of fibers parallel to the applied force slows down mechanical signal transmission significantly. These results suggest that cytoskeletal prestress mediates rapid mechanical signal transmission and allows temporally oscillatory signals in the physiological frequency range to travel a long distance without significant decay due to material viscosity and/or cytosolic drag.

    The full article is available from our Publications page.