Changes in cell shape regulate cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis. It has been suggested that the regulation of cell function by the cell shape is a result of the tension in the cytoskeleton and the distortion of the cell. Here we explore the association between cell-generated mechanical forces and the cell morphology. We hypothesized that the cell contractile force is associated with the degree of cell spreading, in particular with the cell length. We measured traction fields of single human airway smooth muscle cells plated on a polyacrylamide gel, in which fluorescent microbeads were embedded to serve as markers of gel deformation. The traction exerted by the cells at the cell-substrate interface was determined from the measured deformation of the gel. The traction was measured before and after treatment with the contractile agonist histamine, or the relaxing agonist isoproterenol. The relative increase in traction induced by histamine was negatively correlated with the baseline traction. On the contrary, the relative decrease in traction due to isoproterenol was independent of the baseline traction, but it was associated with cell shape: traction decreased more in elongated than in round cells. Maximum cell width, mean cell width, and projected area of the cell were the parameters most tightly coupled to both baseline and histamine-induced traction in this study. Wide and well-spread cells exerted larger traction than slim cells. These results suggest that cell contractility is controlled by cell spreading.
- Cell contraction
- Traction microscopy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine