Living cells and tissues experience various complex modes of forces that are important in physiology and disease. However, how different force modes impact gene expression is elusive. Here we apply local forces of different modes via a magnetic bead bound to the integrins on a cell and quantified cell stiffness, chromatin deformation, and DHFR (dihydrofolate reductase) gene transcription. In-plane stresses result in lower cell stiffness than out-of-plane stresses that lead to bead rolling along the cell long axis (i.e., alignment of actin stress fibers) or at different angles (90° or 45°). However, chromatin stretching and ensuing DHFR gene upregulation by the in-plane mode are similar to those induced by the 45° stress mode. Disrupting stress fibers abolishes differences in cell stiffness, chromatin stretching, and DHFR gene upregulation under different force modes and inhibiting myosin II decreases cell stiffness, chromatin deformation, and gene upregulation. Theoretical modeling using discrete anisotropic stress fibers recapitulates experimental results and reveals underlying mechanisms of force-mode dependence. Our findings suggest that forces impact biological responses of living cells such as gene transcription via previously underappreciated means.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)