Cellular orientational fluctuations, rotational diffusion and nematic order under periodic driving
The ability of living cells to sense the physical properties of their microenvironment and to respond to dynamic forces acting on them plays a central role in regulating their structure, function and fate. Of particular importance is the cellular sensitivity and response to periodic driving forces in noisy environments, encountered in vital physiological conditions such as heart beating, blood vessel pulsation and breathing. Here, we first test and validate two predictions of a mean-field theory of cellular reorientation under periodic driving, which combines the minimization of cellular anisotropic elastic energy with active remodeling forces. We then extend the mean-field theory to include uncorrelated, additive nonequilibrium fluctuations, and show that the theory quantitatively agrees with the experimentally observed stationary probability distributions of the cell body orientation, under a range of biaxial periodic driving forces. The fluctuations theory allows the extraction of the dimensionless active noise amplitude of various cell types, and consequently their rotational diffusion coefficient. We then focus on intra-cellular nematic order, i.e. on orientational fluctuations of actin stress fibers around the cell body orientation, and show experimentally that intra-cellular nematic order increases with both the magnitude of the driving forces and the biaxiality strain ratio. These results are semi-quantitatively explained by applying the same cell body fluctuations theory to orientationally correlated actin stress fiber domains. Finally, an estimate of the energy scale of cellular orientational fluctuations for one cell type is shown to be about six order of magnitude larger than the thermal energy at room temperature. The implications of our findings, which make the quantitative analysis of cell mechanosensitivity more accessible, are discussed.