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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2004 May;96(5):1600-5. Epub 2004 Jan 5.

Rheology of airway smooth muscle cells is associated with cytoskeletal contractile stress.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University, 44 Cummington St., Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Recently reported data from mechanical measurements of cultured airway smooth muscle cells show that stiffness of the cytoskeletal matrix is determined by the extent of static contractile stress borne by the cytoskeleton (Wang N, Tolić-Nørrelykke IM, Chen J, Mijailovich SM, Butler JP, Fredberg JJ, and Stamenović D. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 282, C606-C616, 2002). On the other hand, rheological measurements on these cells show that cytoskeletal stiffness changes with frequency of imposed mechanical loading according to a power law (Fabry B, Maksym GN, Butler JP, Glogauer M, Navajas DF, and Fredberg JJ. Phys Rev Lett 87: 148102, 2001). In this study, we examine the possibility that these two empirical observations might be interrelated. We combine previously reported data for contractile stress of human airway smooth muscle cells with new data describing rheological properties of these cells and derive quantitative, mathematically tractable, and experimentally verifiable empirical relationships between contractile stress and indexes of cell rheology. These findings reveal an intriguing role of the contractile stress: although it maintains structural stability of the cell under applied mechanical loads, it may also regulate rheological properties of the cytoskeleton, which are essential for other cell functions.

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