Prestress mediates force propagation into the nucleus

Shaohua Hu, Jianxin Chen, James P. Butler, Ning Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several reports show that the nucleus is 10 times stiffer than the cytoplasm. Hence, it is not clear if intra-nuclear structures can be directly deformed by a load of physiologic magnitudes. If a physiologic load could not directly deform intra-nuclear structures, then signaling inside the nucleus would occur only via the mechanisms of diffusion or translocation. Using a synchronous detection approach, we quantified displacements of nucleolar structures in cultured airway smooth muscle cells in response to a localized physiologic load (∼0.4 μm surface deformation) via integrin receptors. The nucleolus exhibited significant displacements. Nucleolar structures also exhibited significant deformation, with the dominant strain being the bulk strain. Increasing the pre-existing tensile stress (prestress) in the cytoskeleton significantly increased the stress propagation efficiency to the nucleolus (defined as nucleolus displacement per surface deformation) whereas decreasing the prestress significantly lowered the stress propagation efficiency to the nucleolus. Abolishing the stress fibers/actin bundles by plating the cells on poly-l-lysine-coated dishes dramatically inhibited stress propagation to the nucleolus. These results demonstrate that the prestress in the cytoskeleton is crucial in mediating stress propagation to the nucleolus, with implications for direct mechanical regulation of nuclear activities and functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-428
Number of pages6
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 8 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Cytoskeleton
  • Deformation
  • Mechanotransduction
  • Microfilaments
  • Nucleolus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Molecular Biology


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