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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A biomechanical perspective on stress fiber structure and function.

  • Author(s): Kassianidou, Elena
  • Kumar, Sanjay
  • et al.

Stress fibers are actomyosin-based bundles whose structural and contractile properties underlie numerous cellular processes including adhesion, motility and mechanosensing. Recent advances in high-resolution live-cell imaging and single-cell force measurement have dramatically sharpened our understanding of the assembly, connectivity, and evolution of various specialized stress fiber subpopulations. This in turn has motivated interest in understanding how individual stress fibers generate tension and support cellular structure and force generation. In this review, we discuss approaches for measuring the mechanical properties of single stress fibers. We begin by discussing studies conducted in cell-free settings, including strategies based on isolation of intact stress fibers and reconstitution of stress fiber-like structures from purified components. We then discuss measurements obtained in living cells based both on inference of stress fiber properties from whole-cell mechanical measurements (e.g., atomic force microscopy) and on direct interrogation of single stress fibers (e.g., subcellular laser nanosurgery). We conclude by reviewing various mathematical models of stress fiber function that have been developed based on these experimental measurements. An important future challenge in this area will be the integration of these sophisticated biophysical measurements with the field's increasingly detailed molecular understanding of stress fiber assembly, dynamics, and signal transduction. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Mechanobiology.

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