In numerous cell types, the cytoskeleton has been widely implicated in mechanotransduction pathways involving stretch-activated ion channels, integrins and deformation of intracellular organelles. Studies have also demonstrated that the cytoskeleton can undergo remodelling in response to mechanical stimuli such as tensile strain or fluid flow. In articular chondrocytes, the mechanotransduction pathways are complex, inter-related and as yet, poorly understood. Furthermore, little is known of how the chondrocyte cytoskeleton responds to physiological mechanical loading. This study utilises the well-characterised chondrocyte-agarose model and an established confocal image-analysis technique to demonstrate that both static and cyclic, compressive strain and hydrostatic pressure all induce remodelling of actin microfilaments. This remodelling was characterised by a change from a uniform to a more punctate distribution of cortical actin around the cell periphery. For some loading regimes, this remodelling was reversed over a subsequent 1h unloaded period. This reversible remodelling of actin cytoskeleton may therefore represent a mechanism through which the chondrocyte alters its mechanical properties and mechanosensitivity in response to physiological mechanical loading.
"These include 33 genes directly associated with actin microfilaments, 13 with microtubules and 4 with intermediate filaments (Figure
4). The most highly affected group, the Filamentous-actin cytoskeleton, has been shown to be involved in articular cartilage chondrocyte mechanotransduction, converting a mechanical stimulus into a biochemical response
[103,108-110]. Other studies have confirmed the involvement of the actin cytoskeleton in cartilage chondrocyte mechanotransduction via manipulation of the actin accessory proteins
[108,111], but there are few reports on the affect of mechanical stimulation on microtubule and intermediate filaments
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mechanical stimulation is necessary for regulating correct formation of the skeleton. Here we test the hypothesis that mechanical stimulation of the embryonic skeletal system impacts expression levels of genes implicated in developmentally important signalling pathways in a genome wide approach. We use a mutant mouse model with altered mechanical stimulation due to the absence of limb skeletal muscle (Splotch-delayed) where muscle-less embryos show specific defects in skeletal elements including delayed ossification, changes in the size and shape of cartilage rudiments and joint fusion. We used Microarray and RNA sequencing analysis tools to identify differentially expressed genes between muscle-less and control embryonic (TS23) humerus tissue.
We found that 680 independent genes were down-regulated and 452 genes up-regulated in humeri from muscle-less Spd embryos compared to littermate controls (at least 2-fold; corrected p-value <=0.05). We analysed the resulting differentially expressed gene sets using Gene Ontology annotations to identify significant enrichment of genes associated with particular biological processes, showing that removal of mechanical stimuli from muscle contractions affected genes associated with development and differentiation, cytoskeletal architecture and cell signalling. Among cell signalling pathways, the most strongly disturbed was Wnt signalling, with 34 genes including 19 pathway target genes affected. Spatial gene expression analysis showed that both a Wnt ligand encoding gene (Wnt4) and a pathway antagonist (Sfrp2) are up-regulated specifically in the developing joint line, while the expression of a Wnt target gene, Cd44, is no longer detectable in muscle-less embryos. The identification of 84 genes associated with the cytoskeleton that are down-regulated in the absence of muscle indicates a number of candidate genes that are both mechanoresponsive and potentially involved in mechanotransduction, converting a mechanical stimulus into a transcriptional response.
This work identifies key developmental regulatory genes impacted by altered mechanical stimulation, sheds light on the molecular mechanisms that interpret mechanical stimulation during skeletal development and provides valuable resources for further investigation of the mechanistic basis of mechanoregulation. In particular it highlights the Wnt signalling pathway as a potential point of integration of mechanical and molecular signalling and cytoskeletal components as mediators of the response.
"These studies demonstrate the sensitivity of chondrocytes to mechanical loading and indicate that a complete understanding chondrocyte mechanotransduction remains to be determined. A variety of hydrogels have been utilized including photo crosslinked polyethylene glycol (Farnsworth et al., 2013), self-assembling peptides (Kisiday et al., 2009), alginate (Haudenschild et al., 2011), and agarose (Knight et al., 2006; Vaughan et al., 2010). Most existing studies utilize 3D microenvironments (e.g. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cartilage and chondrocytes experience loading that causes alterations in chondrocyte biological activity. In vivo chondrocytes are surrounded by a pericellular matrix with a stiffness of ~25-200kPa. Understanding the mechanical loading environment of the chondrocyte is of substantial interest for understanding chondrocyte mechanotransduction. The first objective of this study was to analyze the spatial variability of applied mechanical deformations in physiologically stiff agarose on cellular and sub-cellular length scales. Fluorescent microspheres were embedded in physiologically stiff agarose hydrogels. Microsphere positions were measured via confocal microscopy and used to calculate displacement and strain fields as a function of spatial position. The second objective was to assess the feasibility of encapsulating primary human chondrocytes in physiologically stiff agarose. The third objective was to determine if primary human chondrocytes could deform in high-stiffness agarose gels. Primary human chondrocyte viability was assessed using live-dead imaging following 24 and 72h in tissue culture. Chondrocyte shape was measured before and after application of 10% compression. These data indicate that (1) displacement and strain precision are ~1% and 6.5% respectively, (2) high-stiffness agarose gels can maintain primary human chondrocyte viability of >95%, and (3) compression of chondrocytes in 4.5% agarose can induce shape changes indicative of cellular compression. Overall, these results demonstrate the feasibility of using high-concentration agarose for applying in vitro compression to chondrocytes as a model for understanding how chondrocytes respond to in vivo loading.
Journal of Biomechanics 11/2013; 47(9). DOI:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2013.10.051 · 2.75 Impact Factor
"Disruption of actin microfilaments with cytochalasin D was found to decrease viscoelastic mechanical properties of chondrocytes  and to alter chondrocyte nuclear deformation in response to compression of cartilage explants . The actin cytoskeleton in articular chondrocytes has also been shown to undergo reorganization with osmotic stress [70,102], as well as compressive loading and hydrostatic pressure . These studies suggest that the cytoskeleton is involved in the response of chondrocytes to mechanical loading, yet studies directly implicating the cytoskeleton are lacking. "
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mechanical factors play a crucial role in the development of articular cartilage in vivo. In this regard, tissue engineers have sought to leverage native mechanotransduction pathways to enhance in vitro stem cell-based cartilage repair strategies. However, a thorough understanding of how individual mechanical factors influence stem cell fate is needed to predictably and effectively utilize this strategy of mechanically-induced chondrogenesis. This article summarizes some of the latest findings on mechanically stimulated chondrogenesis, highlighting several new areas of interest, such as the effects of mechanical stimulation on matrix maintenance and terminal differentiation, as well as the use of multifactorial bioreactors. Additionally, the roles of individual biophysical factors, such as hydrostatic or osmotic pressure, are examined in light of their potential to induce mesenchymal stem cell chondrogenesis. An improved understanding of biomechanically-driven tissue development and maturation of stem cell-based cartilage replacements will hopefully lead to the development of cell-based therapies for cartilage degeneration and disease.
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