Time dependence of cellular responses to dynamic and complex strain fields

Sophie Chagnon-Lessard, Michel Godin, Andrew E. Pelling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Exposing cells to an unconventional sequence of physical cues can reveal subtleties of cellular sensing and response mechanisms. We investigated the mechanoresponse of cyclically stretched fibroblasts under a spatially non-uniform strain field which was subjected to repeated changes in stretching directions over 55 h. A polydimethylsiloxane microfluidic stretcher array optimized for complex staining procedures and imaging was developed to generate biologically relevant strain and strain gradient amplitudes. We demonstrated that cells can successfully reorient themselves repeatedly, as the main cyclical stretching direction is consecutively switched between two perpendicular directions every 11 h. Importantly, from one reorientation to the next, the extent to which cells reorient themselves perpendicularly to the local strain direction progressively decreases, while their tendency to align perpendicularly to the strain gradient direction increases. We demonstrate that these results are consistent with our finding that cellular responses to strains and strain gradients occur on two distinct time scales, the latter being slower. Overall, our results reveal the absence of major irreversible cellular changes that compromise the ability to sense and reorient to changing strain directions under the conditions of this experiment. On the other hand, we show how the history of strain field dynamics can influence the cellular realignment behavior, due to the interplay of complex time-dependent responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-15
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2019

Cite this