Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 3, 2009
Previous Article Next Article

The compaction of gels by cells: a case of collective mechanical activity

Author affiliations

Abstract

To understand mechanotransduction, purely mechanical phenomena resulting from the crosstalk between contractile cells and their elastic surroundings must be distinguished from adaptive responses to mechanical cues. Here, we revisit the compaction of freely suspended collagengels by embedded cells, where a small volume fraction of cells (osteoblasts and fibroblasts) compacts the surrounding matrix by two orders of magnitude. Combining micropatterning with time-lapse strain mapping, we find gel compaction to be crucially determined by mechanical aspects of the surrounding matrix. First, it is a boundary effect: the compaction propagates from the edges of the matrix into the bulk. Second, the stress imposed by the cells irreversibly compacts the matrix and renders it anisotropic as a consequence of its nonlinear mechanics and the boundary conditions. Third, cell polarization and alignment follow in time and seem to be a consequence of gel compaction, at odds with current mechanosensing conceptions. Finally, our observation of a threshold cell density shows gel compaction to be a cooperative effect, revealing a mechanical interaction between cells through the matrix. The intricate interplay between cell contractility and surrounding matrix mechanics provides an important organizing principle with implications for many physiological processes such as tissue development.

Graphical abstract: The compaction of gels by cells: a case of collective mechanical activity

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Publication details

The article was received on 19 Dec 2008, accepted on 21 Jan 2009 and first published on 02 Feb 2009


Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/B822897C
Integr. Biol., 2009,1, 252-259

Search articles by author

Spotlight

Advertisements