Stretch-induced stress fiber remodeling and the activations of JNK and ERK depend on mechanical strain rate, but not FAK.
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BACKGROUND: Cells within tissues are subjected to mechanical forces caused by extracellular matrix deformation. Cells sense and dynamically respond to stretching of the matrix by reorienting their actin stress fibers and by activating intracellular signaling proteins, including focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and the mitogen-activated proteins kinases (MAPKs). Theoretical analyses predict that stress fibers can relax perturbations in tension depending on the rate of matrix strain. Thus, we hypothesized stress fiber organization and MAPK activities are altered to an extent dependent on stretch frequency. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Bovine aortic endothelial cells and human osteosarcoma cells expressing GFP-actin were cultured on elastic membranes and subjected to various patterns of stretch. Cyclic stretching resulted in strain rate-dependent increases in stress fiber alignment, cell retraction, and the phosphorylation of the MAPKs JNK, ERK and p38. Transient step changes in strain rate caused proportional transient changes in the levels of JNK and ERK phosphorylations without affecting stress fiber organization. Disrupting stress fiber contractile function with cytochalasin D or Y27632 decreased the levels of JNK and ERK phosphorylation. Previous studies indicate that FAK is required for stretch-induced cell alignment and MAPK activations. However, cyclic uniaxial stretching induced stress fiber alignment and the phosphorylation of JNK, ERK and p38 to comparable levels in FAK-null and FAK-expressing mouse embryonic fibroblasts. CONCLUSIONS: These results indicate that cyclic stretch-induced stress fiber alignment, cell retraction, and MAPK activations occur as a consequence of perturbations in fiber strain. These findings thus shed new light into the roles of stress fiber relaxation and reorganization in maintenance of tensional homeostasis in a dynamic mechanical environment.