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Mechanobiology

Biomechanical factors shape cellular function by influencing the structural integrity, morphology, and dynamics of cells and tissues. Our Editorial Board Member Marco Fritzsche and the editors of  Communications Biology together present a collection of articles published in the journal that address how mechanical forces affect biology.

Editorial

We are inviting submissions of articles on the role of mechanobiology in health and disease with the aim of publishing high quality research devoted to advance our understanding of mechanics shaping biological function. We are also happy to present a Collection of papers already published in our journal in this exciting field.

Editorial | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Cells and Biophysics

Ellefsen et al. monitor Piezo-dependent Calcium signals in live cells by TIRF and super-resolution microscopy and find that Ca2+ flickers localize to areas of high traction force. They show that Myosin II activity and MLCK are needed for the generation of Piezo Ca2+ signals and that Piezo1 channels are mobile in the plasma membrane.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Using microfluidic systems, Michalaki et al show that lymphatic endothelial cells exposed to wall shear stress orient in the direction perpendicular to flow and show increased nuclear FOXC2 levels in a manner dependent on E-selectin, a transmembrane adhesion protein. These data provide insights into how lymphatic vessels respond to local flow-mediated mechanical cues.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Huw Colin-York et al. use advanced microscopy techniques to show that the cortical actin network within a model mast cell line undergoes a series of reorganizational events at the basal interface during activation. They find that actin patterns co-localize with zones of Arp2/3 nucleation and myosin-II activity accompanies network reassembly.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Padhi et al. employ nanofibers with controlled structure and alignment as an extra-cellular matrix model, on which they study the exertion of forces from adherent fibroblasts. Identifying force exerting 3D perpendicular lateral protrusions, authors describe a mechanism which leads to the contraction of parallel, neighbouring fibers, and the forces needed to move and align the neighbouring fibers. These findings have relevance in understanding cancer-associated desmoplastic expansion.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Health and Disease

Stanicek et al identify a shear stress-induced long non-coding RNA they name LASSIE, which stabilises junctions between endothelial cells through interactions with junctional and cytoskeletal proteins. This study provides insights into how a transcript that does not encode a protein controls endothelial response to forces associated with blood flow and endothelial barrier function.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Gao et al demonstrate that the angiogenesis regulator leucine-rich-alpha-2-glycoprotein 1 (LRG-1) links biomechanics to pathological angiogenesis in skin fibrosis progression. They find that LRG-1 is induced by the transcription factor ELK-1, which is activated through FAK and ERK signalling in response to mechanical force.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Compressive stress is associated with tumour progression. Using an in vitro assay, Kim et al now find that compression induces glycolysis-related genes in cancer-associated fibroblasts. They also show that expression of PFKFB3 correlates with EMT- and angiogenesis-related genes in breast cancer tissue.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Junmin Lee et al. study the role of geometric features at the perimeter regions of melanoma aggregates in programming stem cell-like state through histone marks. They use a tumor microengineering approach in vitro and report a spatial enrichment of histone modifications with stemness markers. Their work uncovers a mechanotransduction signaling that regulates epigenetic modifiers to regulate tumorigenicity.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Methods

Samadhan Patil et al. report a new method for improving the sensitivity and reproducibility of mechanobiological measurements in malignant cancer cells. Their findings provide insight into the interaction of cells with each other and the microenvironment and may impact our understanding of metastasis.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Fujita, Ochmachi et al combine a DNA origami approach with darkfield microscopy and AFM to study conformational changes in muscle myosin. They generate DNA origami-based thick filaments that enable the direct visualisation of mechanistic details of myosins during force generation under geometric conditions that resemble those in muscle.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology

Callaghan et al. present a combinatory approach to culturing harvested adult mouse cardiomyocytes (aCMs). Under traditional culture protocols, aCMs rapidly lose their phenotype and undergo cell death. With their protocol, the authors show aCMs remain viable and retain their phenotype for 7 days, enough time to do genetic manipulation and small molecule screening.

Article | Open Access | | Communications Biology