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Mol Biol Cell. 2004 Jul;15(7):3475-84. Epub 2004 May 14.

Rho kinase regulates the intracellular micromechanical response of adherent cells to rho activation.

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  • 1Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA.


Local sol-gel transitions of the cytoskeleton modulate cell shape changes, which are required for essential cellular functions, including motility and adhesion. In vitro studies using purified cytoskeletal proteins have suggested molecular mechanisms of regulation of cytoskeleton mechanics; however, the mechanical behavior of living cells and the signaling pathways by which it is regulated remains largely unknown. To address this issue, we used a nanoscale sensing method, intracellular microrheology, to examine the mechanical response of the cell to activation of the small GTPase Rho. We observe that the cytoplasmic stiffness and viscosity of serum-starved Swiss 3T3 cells transiently and locally enhances upon treatment with lysophosphatidic acid, and this mechanical behavior follows a trend similar to Rho activity. Furthermore, the time-dependent activation of Rho decreases the degree of microheterogeneity of the cytoplasm. Our results reveal fundamental differences between intracellular elasticity and cellular tension and suggest a critical role for Rho kinase in the regulation of intracellular mechanics.

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