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Cells as mechanical compass !

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Cells sense and respond to their mechanical environment by exerting forces on their surroundings. The way forces are modulated by extra-cellular matrix (ECM) properties plays a key role in tissue homoeostasis. Using highly resolved micropatterns that constrain cells into the same square envelope but vary the adhesive geometry, here we investigate how the adhesive micro-environment affects the architecture of actin cytoskeleton and the orientation of traction forces. Our data demonstrate that local adhesive changes can trigger orientational ordering of stress fibres throughout the cell, suggesting that cells are capable of integrating information on ECM geometry at the whole-cell level. Finally, we show that cells tend to generate highly polarized force pattern, that is, unidirectional pinching, in response to adequate adhesive conditions. Hence, the geometry of adhesive environment can induce cellular orientation, a process which may have significant implications for the formation and mechanical properties of tissues.

These results have been published in Nature Communication.