Mechanical Load Transfer at the Cellular Level

  • Sara Barreto
  • Damien LacroixEmail author
Part of the Frontiers of Biomechanics book series (FB, volume 3)


Cells interact with their extracellular environment, from which they gather information that influences their behaviour. The cytoskeleton provides a bridge to transmit information between the extracellular and the intracellular environments. It has been suggested that the CSK components may have distinct mechanical roles in the cell and that they might form the structure that defines cell rigidity. One approach to studying the mechanosensing processes is to understand the mechanical properties of cells’ constitutive components individually. In this chapter we describe the development of a multi-structural 3D finite element model of a single-adherent cell to investigate the biophysical differences of the mechanical role of each cytoskeleton component. The model includes prestressed actin bundles and microtubule within the cytoplasm and nucleus, which are surrounded by the actin cortex.

With the multi-structural model, we predicted that actin cortex and microtubules were targeted to respond to compressive loads, while actin bundles and microtubules were major components in maintaining cell forces during stretching. Additionally, corroboration of the multi-structural model regarding its ability to identify the role of the CSK components was obtained by comparing the numerical predictions with AFM force measurements on U2OS-osteosarcoma cells exposed to different cytoskeleton-disrupting drugs. Overall, the multi-structural model not only illustrates that a combination of cytoskeletal structures with their own properties is necessary for a complete description of cellular mechanics but also clarifies the effects of cytoskeletal heterogeneity on the interpretation of force-deformation measurements.


Multi-structural model Actin bundles Microtubules Actin cortex Prestress 


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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INSIGNEO Institute for in silico MedicineThe University of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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