Flow mechanotransduction regulates traction forces, intercellular forces, and adherens junctions

Lucas H. Ting, Jessica R. Jahn, Joon I. Jung, Benjamin R. Shuman, Shirin Feghhi, Sangyoon J. Han, Marita L. Rodriguez, Nathan J. Sniadecki


Endothelial cells respond to fluid shear stress through mechanotransduction responses that affect their cytoskeleton and cell-cell contacts. Here, endothelial cells were grown as monolayers on arrays of microposts and exposed to laminar or disturbed flow to examine the relationship among traction forces, intercellular forces, and cell-cell junctions. Cells under laminar flow had traction forces that were higher than those under static conditions, whereas cells under disturbed flow had lower traction forces. The response in adhesion junction assembly matched closely with changes in traction forces since adherens junctions were larger in size for laminar flow and smaller for disturbed flow. Treating the cells with calyculin-A to increase myosin phosphorylation and traction forces caused an increase in adherens junction size, whereas Y-27362 cause a decrease in their size. Since tugging forces across cell-cell junctions can promote junctional assembly, we developed a novel approach to measure intercellular forces and found that these forces were higher for laminar flow than for static or disturbed flow. The size of adherens junctions and tight junctions matched closely with intercellular forces for these flow conditions. These results indicate that laminar flow can increase cytoskeletal tension while disturbed flow decreases cytoskeletal tension. Consequently, we found that changes in cytoskeletal tension in response to shear flow conditions can affect intercellular tension, which in turn regulates the assembly of cell-cell junctions.

  • endothelial cells
  • microposts
  • tight junction
  • shear flow
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