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J Biomech. 2008;41(9):2036-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jbiomech.2008.03.011. Epub 2008 May 7.

Mechanical model of cytoskeleton structuration during cell adhesion and spreading.

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Laboratoire de Mécanique et Génie Civil, Université Montpellier 2, UMR CNRS 5508, Montpellier Cedex 5, France.


The biomechanical behavior of an adherent cell is intimately dependent on its cytoskeleton structure. Several models have been proposed to study this structure taking into account its existing internal forces. However, the structural and geometrical complexities of the cytoskeleton's filamentous networks lead to difficulties for determining a biologically realistic architecture. The objective of this paper is to present a mechanical model, combined with a numerical method, devoted to the form-finding of the cytoskeleton structure (shape and internal forces) when a cell adheres on a substrate. The cell is modeled as a granular medium, using rigid spheres (grains) corresponding to intracellular cross-linking proteins and distant mechanical interactions to reproduce the cytoskeleton filament internal forces. At the initial state (i.e., before adhesion), these interactions are tacit. The adhesion phenomenon is then simulated by considering microtubules growing from the centrosome towards transmembrane integrin-like receptors. The simulated cell shape changes in this process and results in a mechanically equilibrated structure with traction and compression forces, in interaction with the substrate reactions. This leads to a compressive microtubule network and a corresponding tensile actin-filament network. The results provide coherent shape and forces information for developing a mechanical model of the cytoskeleton structure, which can be exploitable in future biomechanical studies of adherent cells.

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