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Cell Motil Cytoskeleton. 2008 Aug;65(8):641-51. doi: 10.1002/cm.20290.

Sarcomere alignment is regulated by myocyte shape.

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Disease Biophysics Group, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


Cardiac organogenesis and pathogenesis are both characterized by changes in myocyte shape, cytoskeletal architecture, and the extracellular matrix (ECM). However, the mechanisms by which the ECM influences myocyte shape and myofibrillar patterning are unknown. We hypothesized that geometric cues in the ECM align sarcomeres by directing the actin network orientation. To test our hypothesis, we cultured neonatal rat ventricular myocytes on islands of micro-patterned ECM to measure how they remodeled their cytoskeleton in response to extracellular cues. Myocytes spread and assumed the shape of circular and rectangular islands and reorganized their cytoskeletons and myofibrillar arrays with respect to the ECM boundary conditions. Circular myocytes did not assemble predictable actin networks nor organized sarcomere arrays. In contrast, myocytes cultured on rectangular ECM patterns with aspect ratios ranging from 1:1 to 7:1 aligned their sarcomeres in predictable and repeatable patterns based on highly localized focal adhesion complexes. Examination of averaged alpha-actinin images revealed invariant sarcomeric registration irrespective of myocyte aspect ratio. Since the sarcomere sub-units possess a fixed length, this observation indicates that cytoskeleton configuration is length-limited by the extracellular boundary conditions. These results indicate that modification of the extracellular microenvironment induces dynamic reconfiguring of the myocyte shape and intracellular architecture. Furthermore, geometric boundaries such as corners induce localized myofibrillar anisotropy that becomes global as the myocyte aspect ratio increases.

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