Showing 1 - 25 of 167 results
Precise control of microtubule disassembly in living cells.
Microtubules tightly regulate various cellular activities. Our understanding of microtubules is largely based on experiments using microtubule-targeting agents, which, however, are insufficient to dissect the dynamic mechanisms of specific microtubule populations, due to their slow effects on the entire pool of microtubules. To overcome this technological limitation, we have used chemo and optogenetics to disassemble specific microtubule subtypes, including tyrosinated microtubules, primary cilia, mitotic spindles, and intercellular bridges, by rapidly recruiting engineered microtubule-cleaving enzymes onto target microtubules in a reversible manner. Using this approach, we show that acute microtubule disassembly swiftly halts vesicular trafficking and lysosomal dynamics. It also immediately triggers Golgi and ER reorganization and slows the fusion/fission of mitochondria without affecting mitochondrial membrane potential. In addition, cell rigidity is increased after microtubule disruption owing to increased contractile stress fibers. Microtubule disruption furthermore prevents cell division, but does not cause cell death during interphase. Overall, the reported tools facilitate detailed analysis of how microtubules precisely regulate cellular architecture and functions.
Spatiotemporal dynamics of membrane surface charge regulates cell polarity and migration.
During cell migration and polarization, hundreds of signal transduction and cytoskeletal components self-organize to generate localized protrusions. Although biochemical and genetic analyses have delineated many specific interactions, how the activation and localization of so many different molecules are spatiotemporally orchestrated at the subcellular level has remained unclear. Here we show that the regulation of negative surface charge on the inner leaflet of the plasma membrane plays an integrative role in the molecular interactions. Surface charge, or zeta potential, is transiently lowered at new protrusions and within cortical waves of Ras/PI3K/TORC2/F-actin network activation. Rapid alterations of inner leaflet anionic phospholipids, such as PI(4,5)P2, PI(3,4)P2, phosphatidylserine, and phosphatidic acid, collectively contribute to the surface charge changes. Abruptly reducing the surface charge by recruiting positively charged optogenetic actuators was sufficient to trigger the entire biochemical network, initiate de novo protrusions, and abrogate pre-existing polarity. These effects were blocked by genetic or pharmacological inhibitions of key signaling components such as Akt and PI3K/TORC2. Conversely, increasing the negative surface deactivated the network and locally suppressed chemoattractant-induced protrusions or subverted EGF-induced ERK activation. Computational simulations involving excitable biochemical networks demonstrated that slight changes in feedback loops, induced by recruitment of the actuators, could lead to outsized effects on system activation. We propose that key signaling network components act on, and are in turn acted upon, by surface charge, closing feedback loops which bring about the global-scale molecular self-organization required for spontaneous protrusion formation, cell migration, and polarity establishment.
Light-dependent modulation of protein localization and function in living bacteria cells.
Most bacteria lack membrane-enclosed organelles to compartmentalize cellular processes. In lieu of physical compartments, bacterial proteins are often recruited to macromolecular scaffolds at specific subcellular locations to carry out their functions. Consequently, the ability to modulate a protein’s subcellular location with high precision and speed bears the potential to manipulate its corresponding cellular functions. Here we demonstrate that the CRY2/CIB1 system from Arabidopsis thaliana can be used to rapidly direct proteins to different subcellular locations inside live E. coli cells including the nucleoid, the cell pole, membrane, and the midcell division plane. We further show that such light-induced re-localization can be used to rapidly inhibit cytokinesis in actively dividing E. coli cells. Finally, we demonstrate that the CRY2/CIBN binding kinetics can be modulated by green light, adding a new dimension of control to the system.
Local temporal Rac1-GTP nadirs and peaks restrict cell protrusions and retractions.
Cells probe their microenvironment using membrane protrusion-retraction cycles. Spatiotemporal coordination of Rac1 and RhoA GTP-binding activities initiates and reinforces protrusions and retractions, but the control of their finite lifetime remains unclear. We examined the relations of Rac1 and RhoA GTP-binding levels to key protrusion and retraction events, as well as to cell-ECM traction forces at physiologically relevant ECM stiffness. High RhoA-GTP preceded retractions and Rac1-GTP elevation before protrusions. Notable temporal Rac1-GTP nadirs and peaks occurred at the maximal edge velocity of local membrane protrusions and retractions, respectively, followed by declined edge velocity. Moreover, altered local Rac1-GTP consistently preceded similarly altered traction force. Local optogenetic Rac1-GTP perturbations defined a function of Rac1 in restricting protrusions and retractions and in promoting local traction force. Together, we show that Rac1 plays a fundamental role in restricting the size and durability of protrusions and retractions, plausibly in part through controlling traction forces.
Persistent cell migration emerges from a coupling between protrusion dynamics and polarized trafficking.
Migrating cells present a variety of paths, from random to highly directional ones. While random movement can be explained by basal intrinsic activity, persistent movement requires stable polarization. Here, we quantitatively address emergence of persistent migration in (hTERT)-immortalizedRPE1 (retinal pigment epithelial) cells over long timescales. By live cell imaging and dynamic micropatterning, we demonstrate that the Nucleus-Golgi axis aligns with direction of migration leading to efficient cell movement. We show that polarized trafficking is directed toward protrusions with a 20-min delay, and that migration becomes random after disrupting internal cell organization. Eventually, we prove that localized optogenetic Cdc42 activation orients the Nucleus-Golgi axis. Our work suggests that polarized trafficking stabilizes the protrusive activity of the cell, while protrusive activity orients this polarity axis, leading to persistent cell migration. Using a minimal physical model, we show that this feedback is sufficient to recapitulate the quantitative properties of cell migration in the timescale of hours.
The cell polarity determinant Dlg1 facilitates epithelial invagination by promoting tissue-scale mechanical coordination.
Epithelial folding mediated by apical constriction serves as a fundamental mechanism to convert flat epithelial sheets into multilayered structures. It remains unknown whether additional mechanical inputs are required for apical constriction-mediated folding. Using Drosophila mesoderm invagination as a model, we identified an important role for the non-constricting, lateral mesodermal cells adjacent to the constriction domain ('flanking cells') in facilitating epithelial folding. We found that depletion of the basolateral determinant Dlg1 disrupts the transition between apical constriction and invagination without affecting the rate of apical constriction. Strikingly, the observed delay in invagination is associated with ineffective apical myosin contractions in the flanking cells that lead to overstretching of their apical domain. The defects in the flanking cells impede ventral-directed movement of the lateral ectoderm, suggesting reduced mechanical coupling between tissues. Specifically disrupting the flanking cells in wild-type embryos by laser ablation or optogenetic depletion of cortical actin is sufficient to delay the apical constriction-to-invagination transition. Our findings indicate that effective mesoderm invagination requires intact flanking cells and suggest a role for tissue-scale mechanical coupling during epithelial folding.
CRY-BARs: Versatile light-gated molecular tools for the remodeling of membrane architectures.
BAR (Bin, Amphiphysin and Rvs) protein domains are responsible for the generation of membrane curvature and represent a critical mechanical component of cellular functions. Thus, BAR domains have great potential as components of membrane-remodeling tools for cell biologists. In this work, we describe the design and implementation of a family of versatile light-gated I-BAR domain containing tools (CRY-BARs) with applications in the remodeling of membrane architectures and the control of cellular dynamics. By taking advantage of the intrinsic membrane binding propensity of the I-BAR domain, CRY-BARs can be used for spatial and temporal control of cellular processes that require induction of membrane protrusions. Using cell lines and primary neuron cultures, we demonstrate that the CRY-BAR optogenetic tool reports membrane dynamic changes associated with cellular activity. Moreover, we provide evidence that Ezrin acts as a relay between the plasma membrane and the actin cytoskeleton and therefore is an important mediator of switch function. Overall, CRY-BARs hold promise as a useful addition to the optogenetic toolkit to study membrane remodeling in live cells.
Cell size and actin architecture determine force generation in optogenetically activated adherent cells.
Adherent cells use actomyosin contractility to generate mechanical force and to sense the physical properties of their environment, with dramatic consequences for migration, division, differentiation and fate. However, the organization of the actomyosin system within cells is highly variable, with its assembly and function being controlled by small GTPases from the Rho-family. How activation of these regulators translates into cell-scale force generation and the corresponding sensing capabilities in the context of different physical environments is not understood. Here we probe this relationship combining recent advances in non-neuronal optogenetics with micropatterning and traction force microscopy on soft elastic substrates. We find that after whole-cell RhoA-activation by the CRY2/CIBN optogenetic system with a short pulse of 100 milliseconds, single cells contract before returning to their original tension setpoint with near perfect precision on a time scale of several minutes. To decouple the biochemical and mechanical elements of this response, we introduce a mathematical model that is parametrized by fits to the dynamics of the substrate deformation energy. We find that the RhoA-response builds up quickly on a time scale of 20 seconds, but decays slowly on a time scale of 50 seconds. The larger the cells and the more polarized their actin cytoskeleton, the more substrate deformation energy is generated. RhoA-activation starts to saturate if optogenetic pulse length exceeds 50 milliseconds, revealing the intrinsic limits of biochemical activation. Together our results suggest that adherent cells establish tensional homeostasis by the RhoA-system, but that the setpoint and the dynamics around it are strongly determined by cell size and the architecture of the actin cytoskeleton, which both are controlled by the extracellular environment.
Spindle reorientation in response to mechanical stress is an emergent property of the spindle positioning mechanisms.
Proper orientation of the mitotic spindle plays a crucial role in embryos, during tissue development, and in adults, where it functions to dissipate mechanical stress to maintain tissue integrity and homeostasis. While mitotic spindles have been shown to reorient in response to external mechanical stresses, the subcellular cues that mediate spindle reorientation remain unclear. Here, we have used a combination of optogenetics and computational modelling to better understand how mitotic spindles respond to inhomogeneous tension within the actomyosin cortex. Strikingly, we find that the optogenetic activation of RhoA only influences spindle orientation when it is induced at both poles of the cell. Under these conditions, the sudden local increase in cortical tension induced by RhoA activation reduces pulling forces exerted by cortical regulators on astral microtubules. This leads to a perturbation of the torque balance exerted on the spindle, which causes it to rotate. Thus, spindle rotation in response to mechanical stress is an emergent phenomenon arising from the interaction between the spindle positioning machinery and the cell cortex.
Optogenetic EB1 inactivation shortens metaphase spindles by disrupting cortical force-producing interactions with astral microtubules.
Chromosome segregation is accomplished by the mitotic spindle, a bipolar micromachine built primarily from microtubules. Different microtubule populations contribute to spindle function: kinetochore microtubules attach and transmit forces to chromosomes, antiparallel interpolar microtubules support spindle structure, and astral microtubules connect spindle poles to the cell cortex.1,2 In mammalian cells, end-binding (EB) proteins associate with all growing microtubule plus ends throughout the cell cycle and serve as adaptors for diverse +TIPs that control microtubule dynamics and interactions with other intracellular structures.3 Because binding of many +TIPs to EB1 and thus microtubule-end association is switched off by mitotic phosphorylation,4-6 the mitotic function of EBs remains poorly understood. To analyze how EB1 and associated +TIPs on different spindle microtubule populations contribute to mitotic spindle dynamics, we use a light-sensitive EB1 variant, π-EB1, that allows local, acute, and reversible inactivation of +TIP association with growing microtubule ends in live cells.7 We find that acute π-EB1 photoinactivation results in rapid and reversible metaphase spindle shortening and transient relaxation of tension across the central spindle. However, in contrast to interphase, π-EB1 photoinactivation does not inhibit microtubule growth in metaphase but instead increases astral microtubule length and number. Yet in the absence of EB1 activity, astral microtubules fail to engage the cortical dynein/dynactin machinery, and spindle poles move away from regions of π-EB1 photoinactivation. In conclusion, our optogenetic approach reveals mitotic EB1 functions that remain hidden in genetic experiments, likely due to compensatory molecular systems regulating vertebrate spindle dynamics.
Mechanical strain stimulates COPII-dependent trafficking via Rac1.
Secretory trafficking from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is subject to regulation by extrinsic and intrinsic factors. While much of the focus has been on biochemical triggers, little is known whether and how the ER is subject to regulation by mechanical signals. Here, we show that COPII-dependent ER-export is regulated by mechanical strain. Mechanotransduction to the ER was mediated via a previously unappreciated ER-localized pool of the small GTPase Rac1. Mechanistically, we show that Rac1 interacts with the small GTPase Sar1 to drive budding of COPII carriers and stimulate ER-to-Golgi transport. Altogether, we establish an unprecedented link between mechanical strain and export from the ER.
Light-driven biological actuators to probe the rheology of 3D microtissues.
The mechanical properties of biological tissues are key to the regulation of their physical integrity and function. Although the application of external loading or biochemical treatments allows to estimate these properties globally, it remains problematic to assess how such external stimuli compare with internal, cell-generated contractions. Here we engineered 3D microtissues composed of optogenetically-modified fibroblasts encapsulated within collagen. Using light to control the activity of RhoA, a major regulator of cellular contractility, we induced local mechanical perturbation within 3D fibrous microtissues, while tracking in real time microtissue stress and strain. We thus investigated the dynamic regulation of light-induced, local contractions and their spatio-temporal propagation in microtissues. By comparing the evolution of stresses and strains upon stimulation, we demonstrated the potential of our technique for quantifying tissue elasticity and viscosity, before examining the possibility of using light to map local anisotropies in mechanically heterogeneous microtissues. Altogether, our results open an avenue to non-destructively chart the rheology of 3D tissues in real time, using their own constituting cells as internal actuators.
Optogenetic Manipulation of Cell Migration with High Spatiotemporal Resolution Using Lattice Lightsheet Microscopy.
Lattice lightsheet microscopy (LLSM) is modified with the aim of manipulating cellular behavior with subcellular resolution through three-dimensional (3D) optogenetic activation. In this study, we report a straightforward implementation of the activation source in LLSM in which the stimulating light can be generated by changing the spatial light modulator (SLM) patterns and the annual masks. As a result, a Bessel beam as a stimulation source is integrated into the LLSM without changing the optical configuration, achieving high spatiotemporal activation. We show that the energy power required for optogenetic reactions is lower than 1 nW (24 mW/cm2) and membrane ruffling can be activated at different locations within a cell with subcellular resolution. We also demonstrate guided cell migration using optogenetic stimulation for up to 6 h with 463 volume imaging without noticeable damage to cells.
Opto-Katanin: An Optogenetic Tool for Localized Microtubule Disassembly.
Microtubules are major cytoskeletal filaments that drive chromosome separation during cell division, serve as rails for intracellular transport and as a scaffold for organelle positioning. Experimental manipulation of microtubules is widely used in cell and developmental biology, but tools for precise subcellular spatiotemporal control of microtubule integrity are currently lacking. Here, we exploit the dependence of the mammalian microtubule-severing protein katanin on microtubule-targeting co-factors to generate a light-activated system for localized microtubule disassembly that we named opto-katanin. Targeted illumination with blue light induces rapid and localized opto-katanin recruitment and local microtubule depolymerization, which is quickly reversible after stopping light-induced activation. Opto-katanin can be employed to locally perturb microtubule-based transport and organelle morphology in dividing cells and differentiated neurons with high spatiotemporal precision. We show that different microtubule-associated proteins can be used to recruit opto-katanin to microtubules and induce severing, paving the way for spatiotemporally precise manipulation of specific microtubule subpopulations.
Cell polarity determinant Dlg1 facilitates epithelial invagination by promoting tissue-scale mechanical coordination.
Epithelial folding mediated by apical constriction serves as a fundamental mechanism to convert flat epithelial sheets into multilayered structures. It remains elusive whether additional mechanical inputs are required for folding mediated by apical constriction. Using Drosophila mesoderm invagination as a model, we identified an important role for the non-constricting, lateral mesodermal cells adjacent to the constriction domain (“flanking cells”) in facilitating epithelial folding. We found that depletion of the basolateral determinant, Dlg1, disrupts the transition between apical constriction and invagination without affecting the rate of apical constriction. Strikingly, the observed delay in invagination is associated with ineffective apical myosin contractions in the flanking cells that lead to overstretching of their apical domain. The defects in the flanking cells impede ventral-directed movement of the lateral ectoderm, suggesting reduced mechanical coupling between tissues. Specifically disrupting the flanking cells in wildtype embryos by laser ablation or optogenetic depletion of cortical actin is sufficient to delay the apical constriction-to-invagination transition. Our findings indicate that effective mesoderm invagination requires intact flanking cells and suggest a role for tissue-scale mechanical coupling during epithelial folding.
Two-input protein logic gate for computation in living cells.
Advances in protein design have brought us within reach of developing a nanoscale programming language, in which molecules serve as operands and their conformational states function as logic gates with precise input and output behaviors. Combining these nanoscale computing agents into larger molecules and molecular complexes will allow us to write and execute "code". Here, in an important step toward this goal, we report an engineered, single protein design that is allosterically regulated to function as a 'two-input logic OR gate'. Our system is based on chemo- and optogenetic regulation of focal adhesion kinase. In the engineered FAK, all of FAK domain architecture is retained and key intramolecular interactions between the kinase and the FERM domains are externally controlled through a rapamycin-inducible uniRapR module in the kinase domain and a light-inducible LOV2 module in the FERM domain. Orthogonal regulation of protein function was possible using the chemo- and optogenetic switches. We demonstrate that dynamic FAK activation profoundly increased cell multiaxial complexity in the fibrous extracellular matrix microenvironment and decreased cell motility. This work provides proof-of-principle for fine multimodal control of protein function and paves the way for construction of complex nanoscale computing agents.
A novel mechanism of bulk cytoplasmic transport by cortical dynein in Drosophila ovary.
Cytoplasmic dynein, a major minus-end directed microtubule motor, plays essential roles in eukaryotic cells. Drosophila oocyte growth is mainly dependent on the contribution of cytoplasmic contents from the interconnected sister cells, nurse cells. We have previously shown that cytoplasmic dynein is required for Drosophila oocyte growth, and assumed that it transports cargoes along microtubule tracks from nurse cells to the oocyte. Here we report that instead transporting cargoes along microtubules into the oocyte, cortical dynein actively moves microtubules in nurse cells and from nurse cells to the oocyte via the cytoplasmic bridges, the ring canals. We demonstrate this microtubule movement is sufficient to drag even inert cytoplasmic particles through the ring canals to the oocyte. Furthermore, replacing dynein with a minus-end directed plant kinesin linked to the actin cortex is sufficient for transporting organelles and cytoplasm to the oocyte and driving its growth. These experiments show that cortical dynein can perform bulk cytoplasmic transport by gliding microtubules along the cell cortex and through the ring canals to the oocyte. We propose that the dynein-driven microtubule flow could serve as a novel mode of cargo transport for fast cytoplasmic transfer to support rapid oocyte growth.
Optogenetic dissection of the roles of actomyosin in the mechanics underlying tissue fluidity.
Rapid epithelial tissue flows are essential to building and shaping developing embryos. However, it is not well understood how the mechanical properties of tissues and the forces driving them to flow are jointly regulated to accommodate rapid tissue remodeling. To dissect the roles of actomyosin in the mechanics of epithelial tissue flows, here we use two optogenetic tools, optoGEF and optoGAP, to manipulate Rho/Rho-kinase signaling and actomyosin contractility in the germband epithelium, which flows via convergent extension during Drosophila body axis elongation. The ability to perturb actomyosin across the tissue allows us to analyze the effects of actomyosin on cell rearrangements, tissue tensions, and tissue mechanical properties. We find that either optogenetic activation or deactivation of Rho1 signaling and actomyosin contractility at the apical surface of the germband disrupts cell rearrangements and tissue-level flows. By probing mechanical tensions in the tissue using laser ablation and predicting tissue mechanical properties from cell packings, we find that actomyosin influences both the anisotropic forces driving tissue flow and the mechanical properties of the tissue resisting flow, leading to complex relationships between actomyosin activity and tissue-level flow. Moreover, our results indicate that changes in the distribution of medial and junctional myosin in the different perturbations alter tissue tension and cell packings in distinct ways, revealing how junctional and medial myosin have differential roles in promoting and orienting cell rearrangements to tune tissue flows in developing embryos.
Microtubule disassembly by caspases is the rate-limiting step of cell extrusion
Epithelial cell death is essential for tissue homeostasis, robustness and morphogenesis. The expulsion of epithelial cells following caspase activation requires well-orchestrated remodeling steps leading to cell elimination without impairing tissue sealing. While numerous studies have provided insight about the process of cell extrusion, we still know very little about the relationship between caspase activation and the remodeling steps of cell extrusion. Moreover, most studies of cell extrusion focused on the regulation of actomyosin and steps leading to the formation of a supracellular contractile ring. However, the contribution of other cellular factors to cell extrusion has been poorly explored. Using the Drosophila pupal notum, a single layer epithelium where most extrusion events are caspase-dependent, we first showed that the initiation of cell extrusion and apical constriction are surprisingly not associated with the modulation of actomyosin concentration/dynamics. Instead, cell apical constriction is initiated by the disassembly of a medio-apical mesh of microtubules which is driven by effector caspases. We confirmed that local and rapid increase/decrease of microtubules is sufficient to respectively expand/constrict cell apical area. Importantly, the depletion of microtubules is sufficient to bypass the requirement of caspases for cell extrusion. This study shows that microtubules disassembly by caspases is a key rate-limiting steps of extrusion, and outlines a more general function of microtubules in epithelial cell shape stabilisation.
Precise control of microtubule disassembly in living cells.
Microtubules (MTs) are components of the evolutionarily conserved cytoskeleton, which tightly regulates various cellular activities. Our understanding of MTs is largely based on MT-targeting agents, which, however, are insufficient to dissect the dynamic mechanisms of specific MT populations due to their slow effects on the entire pool of MTs in cells. To address this limitation, we have used chemogenetics and optogenetics to disassemble specific MT subtypes by rapid recruitment of engineered MT-cleaving enzymes. Acute MT disassembly swiftly halted vesicular trafficking and lysosome dynamics. We also used this approach to disassemble MTs specifically modified by tyrosination and several MT-based structures including primary cilia, mitotic spindles, and intercellular bridges. These effects were rapidly reversed by inhibiting the activity or MT association of the cleaving enzymes. The disassembly of targeted MTs with spatial and temporal accuracy enables to uncover new insights of how MTs precisely regulate cellular architectures and functions.
Engineering Photoresponsive Ligand Tethers for Mechanical Regulation of Stem Cells.
Regulating stem cell functions by precisely controlling the nanoscale presentation of bioactive ligands has a substantial impact on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine but remains a major challenge. Here it is shown that bioactive ligands can become mechanically "invisible" by increasing their tether lengths to the substrate beyond a critical length, providing a way to regulate mechanotransduction without changing the biochemical conditions. Building on this finding, light switchable tethers are rationally designed, whose lengths can be modulated reversibly by switching a light-responsive protein, pdDronpa, in between monomer and dimer states. This allows the regulation of the adhesion, spreading, and differentiation of stem cells by light on substrates of well-defined biochemical and physical properties. Spatiotemporal regulation of differential cell fates on the same substrate is further demonstrated, which may represent an important step toward constructing complex organoids or mini tissues by spatially defining the mechanical cues of the cellular microenvironment with light.
An active tethering mechanism controls the fate of vesicles.
Vesicle tethers are thought to underpin the efficiency of intracellular fusion by bridging vesicles to their target membranes. However, the interplay between tethering and fusion has remained enigmatic. Here, through optogenetic control of either a natural tether-the exocyst complex-or an artificial tether, we report that tethering regulates the mode of fusion. We find that vesicles mainly undergo kiss-and-run instead of full fusion in the absence of functional exocyst. Full fusion is rescued by optogenetically restoring exocyst function, in a manner likely dependent on the stoichiometry of tether engagement with the plasma membrane. In contrast, a passive artificial tether produces mostly kissing events, suggesting that kiss-and-run is the default mode of vesicle fusion. Optogenetic control of tethering further shows that fusion mode has physiological relevance since only full fusion could trigger lamellipodial expansion. These findings demonstrate that active coupling between tethering and fusion is critical for robust membrane merger.
The effect of substrate stiffness on tensile force transduction in the epithelial monolayers.
In recent years, the importance of mechanical signaling and the cellular mechanical microenvironment in affecting cellular behavior has been widely accepted. Cells in epithelial monolayers are mechanically connected to each other and the underlying extracellular matrix (ECM), forming a highly connected mechanical system subjected to various mechanical cues from their environment, such as the ECM stiffness. Changes in the ECM stiffness have been linked to many pathologies, including tumor formation. However, our understanding of how ECM stiffness and its heterogeneities affect the transduction of mechanical forces in epithelial monolayers is lacking. To investigate this, we used a combination of experimental and computational methods. The experiments were conducted using epithelial cells cultured on an elastic substrate and applying a mechanical stimulus by moving a single cell by micromanipulation. To replicate our experiments computationally and quantify the forces transduced in the epithelium, we developed a new model that described the mechanics of both the cells and the substrate. Our model further enabled the simulations with local stiffness heterogeneities. We found the substrate stiffness to distinctly affect the force transduction as well as the cellular movement and deformation following an external force. Also, we found that local changes in the stiffness can alter the cells’ response to external forces over long distances. Our results suggest that this long-range signaling of the substrate stiffness depends on the cells’ ability to resist deformation. Furthermore, we found that the cell’s elasticity in the apico-basal direction provides a level of detachment between the apical cell-cell junctions and the basal focal adhesions. Our simulation results show potential for increased ECM stiffness, e.g. due to a tumor, to modulate mechanical signaling between cells also outside the stiff region. Furthermore, the developed model provides a good platform for future studies on the interactions between epithelial monolayers and elastic substrates.
Mechanical worrying drives cell migration in crowded environments.
Migratory cells navigate through crowded 3D microenvironments in vivo. Amoeboid cells, such as immune cells and some cancer cells, are thought to do so by deforming their bodies to squeeze through tight spaces.1 Yet large populations of nearly spherical amoeboid cells migrate2–4 in microenvironments too dense5,6 to move through without extensive shape deformations. How they do so is unknown. We used high-resolution light-sheet microscopy to visualize metastatic melanoma cells in dense environments, finding that cells maintain a round morphology as they migrate and create a path through which to move via bleb-driven mechanical degradation and subsequent macropinocytosis of extracellular matrix components. Proteolytic degradation of the extracellular matrix via matrix metalloproteinases is not required. Membrane blebs are short-lived relative to the timescale of migration, and thus persistence in their polarization is critical for productive ablation of the extracellular matrix. Interactions between small but long-lived cortical adhesions and collagen at the cell front induce PI-3 Kinase signaling that drive bleb enlargement via branched actin polymerization. Large blebs in turn abrade collagen, creating a feedback between extracellular matrix structure, cell morphology, and cell polarization that results in both path generation and persistent cell movement.
Single-Component Optogenetic Tools for Inducible RhoA GTPase Signaling.
Optogenetic tools are created to control RhoA GTPase, a central regulator of actin organization and actomyosin contractility. RhoA GTPase, or its upstream activator ARHGEF11, is fused to BcLOV4, a photoreceptor that can be dynamically recruited to the plasma membrane by a light-regulated protein-lipid electrostatic interaction with the inner leaflet. Direct membrane recruitment of these proteins induces potent contractile signaling sufficient to separate adherens junctions with as little as one pulse of blue light. Induced cytoskeletal morphology changes are dependent on the alignment of the spatially patterned stimulation with the underlying cell polarization. RhoA-mediated cytoskeletal activation drives yes-associated protein (YAP) nuclear localization within minutes and consequent mechanotransduction verified by YAP-transcriptional enhanced associate domain transcriptional activity. These single-transgene tools do not require protein binding partners for dynamic membrane localization and permit spatiotemporally precise control over RhoA signaling to advance the study of its diverse regulatory roles in cell migration, morphogenesis, and cell cycle maintenance.