A dynamic stochastic model of frequency-dependent stress fiber alignment induced by cyclic stretch. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Actin stress fibers (SFs) are mechanosensitive structural elements that respond to forces to affect cell morphology, migration, signal transduction and cell function. Cells are internally stressed so that SFs are extended beyond their unloaded lengths, and SFs tend to self-adjust to an equilibrium level of extension. While there is much evidence that cells reorganize their SFs in response to matrix deformations, it is unclear how cells and their SFs determine their specific response to particular spatiotemporal changes in the matrix. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Bovine aortic endothelial cells were subjected to cyclic uniaxial stretch over a range of frequencies to quantify the rate and extent of stress fiber alignment. At a frequency of 1 Hz, SFs predominantly oriented perpendicular to stretch, while at 0.1 Hz the extent of SF alignment was markedly reduced and at 0.01 Hz there was no alignment at all. The results were interpreted using a simple kinematic model of SF networks in which the dynamic response depended on the rates of matrix stretching, SF turnover, and SF self-adjustment of extension. For these cells, the model predicted a threshold frequency of 0.01 Hz below which SFs no longer respond to matrix stretch, and a saturation frequency of 1 Hz above which no additional SF alignment would occur. The model also accurately described the dependence of SF alignment on matrix stretch magnitude. CONCLUSIONS: The dynamic stochastic model was capable of describing SF reorganization in response to diverse temporal and spatial patterns of stretch. The model predicted that at high frequencies, SFs preferentially disassembled in the direction of stretch and achieved a new equilibrium by accumulating in the direction of lowest stretch. At low stretch frequencies, SFs self-adjusted to dissipate the effects of matrix stretch. Thus, SF turnover and self-adjustment are each important mechanisms that cells use to maintain mechanical homeostasis.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

author list (cited authors)

  • Hsu, H., Lee, C., & Kaunas, R.

citation count

  • 98

complete list of authors

  • Hsu, Hui-Ju||Lee, Chin-Fu||Kaunas, Roland

editor list (cited editors)

  • Jaeger, J.

publication date

  • March 2009