When Cells Feel the Strain
Prof. Rudolf Merkel, Forschungszentrum Jülich
Throughout the lifetime of an organism its cells are exposed to mechanical forces and deformations. In most cases these cells show pronounced reactions, often called mechanoresponse. While the phenomenon as such has been well described, much remains to be learned about the underlying molecular mechanisms. In this talk I will describe how mechanical strain can be applied to cells and how their mechanoresponse can be quantified. To this end we use living cells adhered to soft and stretchable rubber substrates. Under such conditions substrate extension results in stretching of cytoskeletal fibers. As response to such mechanical straining we observed pronounced exchange of stress-fiber associated proteins on short time scales and a rearrangement of the entire cytoskeletal system on long time scales.