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Valenti, S., Yousefzade, O., Puiggalí, J., Macovez, R., (2020). Phase-selective conductivity enhancement and cooperativity length in PLLA/TPU nanocomposite blends with carboxylated carbon nanotubes Polymer 191, 122279

Transmission electron microscopy, temperature-modulated differential scanning calorimetry, and broadband dielectric spectroscopy were employed to characterize ternary nanocomposites consisting of carboxylated carbon nanotubes (CNT) dispersed in a blend of two immiscible polymers, poly(L,lactide) (PLLA) and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). The nanocomposite blends were obtained by melt-compounding of PLLA and TPU in the presence of 0.2 wt-% CNT, either in the presence or absence of a Joncryl® ADR chain extender for PLLA, leading to reactive and non-reactive melt mixed samples. In both cases, the binary PLLA/TPU blend is characterized by phase separation into submicron TPU droplets dispersed in the PLLA matrix, and displays two separate glass transition temperatures. The carbon nanotubes are present either inside the TPU phase (samples obtained without chain extender), or at their boundaries (reactive-melt mixed samples). The effect of the sub-micron confinement of the TPU component is to decrease the cooperativity length of the primary segmental relaxation of this polymer, which is accentuated by the presence of the CNT fillers. Depending on the type of sample, five or six distinct relaxations are observed by means of dielectric spectroscopy, which we are able to assign to different dielectric phenomena. Our dielectric data show that the CNT fillers do not contribute directly to the long-range charge transport in the nanocomposite blends, consistent with the nanocomposites morphology, but rather result in a shift of the Maxwell-Wagner-Sillars space-charge frequency associated with charge accumulation at the PLLA/TPU boundary. Such shift testifies to a selective conductivity enhancement of the TPU phase due to the filler.

Keywords: Conductivity enhancement, Cooperatively rearranging region, Dielectric spectroscopy, Glass transition, Maxwell-Wagner-Sillars relaxation, Nanofiller

Redondo-Morata, Lorena, Losada-Pérez, Patricia, Giannotti, Marina Inés, (2020). Lipid bilayers: Phase behavior and nanomechanics Current Topics in Membranes (ed. Levitan, Irena, Trache, Andreea), Academic Press (Berlin, Germany) 86, 1-55

Lipid membranes are involved in many physiological processes like recognition, signaling, fusion or remodeling of the cell membrane or some of its internal compartments. Within the cell, they are the ultimate barrier, while maintaining the fluidity or flexibility required for a myriad of processes, including membrane protein assembly. The physical properties of in vitro model membranes as model cell membranes have been extensively studied with a variety of techniques, from classical thermodynamics to advanced modern microscopies. Here we review the nanomechanics of solid-supported lipid membranes with a focus in their phase behavior. Relevant information obtained by quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) and atomic force microscopy (AFM) as complementary techniques in the nano/mesoscale interface is presented. Membrane morphological and mechanical characterization will be discussed in the framework of its phase behavior, phase transitions and coexistence, in simple and complex models, and upon the presence of cholesterol.

Keywords: Lipid phase behavior, Phase transition, Phase coexistence, Nanomechanics, Thermodynamics, Atomic force microscopy (AFM), Quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D)

Kuipers, Arthur J., Middelbeek, Jeroen, Vrenken, Kirsten, Pérez-González, Carlos, Poelmans, Geert, Klarenbeek, Jeffrey, Jalink, Kees, Trepat, Xavier, van Leeuwen, Frank N., (2018). TRPM7 controls mesenchymal features of breast cancer cells by tensional regulation of SOX4 Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - Molecular Basis of Disease 1864, (7), 2409-2419

Mechanically induced signaling pathways are important drivers of tumor progression. However, if and how mechanical signals affect metastasis or therapy response remains poorly understood. We previously found that the channel-kinase TRPM7, a regulator of cellular tension implicated in mechano-sensory processes, is required for breast cancer metastasis in vitro and in vivo. Here, we show that TRPM7 contributes to maintaining a mesenchymal phenotype in breast cancer cells by tensional regulation of the EMT transcription factor SOX4. The functional consequences of SOX4 knockdown closely mirror those produced by TRPM7 knockdown. By traction force measurements, we demonstrate that TRPM7 reduces cytoskeletal tension through inhibition of myosin II activity. Moreover, we show that SOX4 expression and downstream mesenchymal markers are inversely regulated by cytoskeletal tension and matrix rigidity. Overall, our results identify SOX4 as a transcription factor that is uniquely sensitive to cellular tension and indicate that TRPM7 may contribute to breast cancer progression by tensional regulation of SOX4.

Keywords: TRPM7, SOX4, Epithelial-mesenchymal transition, Cytoskeleton, Mechanotransduction

Urra, O., Jané, R., (2014). New sleep transition indexes for describing altered sleep in SAHS IFMBE Proceedings XIII Mediterranean Conference on Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing 2013 (ed. Roa Romero, Laura M.), Springer International Publishing (London, UK) 41, 1017-1020

Traditional Sleep Structure Indexes (TSSIs) are insufficient to identify patterns of altered sleep. TSSIs mainly account for absolute time measures, but different levels of state instability may lead to similar absolute time distribution. Therefore, sleep stability remains beyond the scope of TSSIs. However, recent studies suggest that sleep disorders may be rather influenced by a breakdown in the sleep-stage switching mechanisms. In this study, we propose a set of 11 Sleep Transition Indexes (STIs) that characterize sleep fragmentation and account for the state-stability governed by the ultradian, homeostatic and circadian rhythms. We demonstrate that most of the proposed STIs are potential markers of SAHS severity, while TSSIs are not. In addition, we provide a new framework to analyze sleep disorders from the direct perspective of sleep regulatory mechanisms. In particular, our results indicate that SAHS may be influenced by a dysregulation of homeostatic rhythms but not of ultradian or circadian rhythms.

Keywords: SAHS, Sleep Transitions, Sleep Structure, Polysomnography, Hypnogram

Trepat, X., Fredberg, J. J., (2011). Plithotaxis and emergent dynamics in collective cellular migration Trends in Cell Biology 21, (11), 638-646

For a monolayer sheet to migrate cohesively, it has long been suspected that each constituent cell must exert physical forces not only upon its extracellular matrix but also upon neighboring cells. The first comprehensive maps of these distinct force components reveal an unexpected physical picture. Rather than showing smooth and systematic variation within the monolayer, the distribution of physical forces is dominated by heterogeneity, both in space and in time, which emerges spontaneously, propagates over great distances, and cooperates over the span of many cell bodies. To explain the severe ruggedness of this force landscape and its role in collective cell guidance, the well known mechanisms of chemotaxis, durotaxis, haptotaxis are clearly insufficient. In a broad range of epithelial and endothelial cell sheets, collective cell migration is governed instead by a newly discovered emergent mechanism of innately collective cell guidance - plithotaxis.

Keywords: Positional information, Drosophila embryo, Sheet migration, Dpp gradient, Cells, Force, Morphogenesis, Transition, Identification, Proliferation

Toromanov, Georgi, González-García, Cristina, Altankov, George, Salmerón-Sánchez, Manuel, (2010). Vitronectin activity on polymer substrates with controlled -OH density Polymer 51, (11), 2329-2336

Vitronectin (VN) adsorption on a family of model substrates consisting of copolymers of ethyl acrylate and hydroxyl ethylacrylate in different ratios (to obtain a controlled surface density of -OH groups) was investigated by Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM). It is shown that the fraction of the substrate covered by the protein depends strongly on the amount of hydroxyl groups in the sample and it monotonically decreases as the -OH density increases. Isolated globular-like VN molecules are observed on the surfaces with the higher OH density. As the fraction of hydroxyl groups decreases, aggregates of 3-5 VN molecules are observed on the sample. Overall cell morphology, focal adhesion formation and actin cytoskeleton development are investigated to assess the biological activity of the adsorbed VN on the different surfaces. Dermal fibroblast cells show excellent material interaction on the more hydrophobic samples (OH contents lower than 0.5), which reveals enhanced VN activity on this family of substrates as compared with other extracellular matrix proteins (e.g., fibronectin and fibrinogen).

Keywords: Copolymers, Vitronectin, AFM, Self-assembled monolayers, Cell-adhesion, Thermal transitions, Protein adsorption, Surfaces, Fibronectin, Biomaterials, Attachment, Fibrinogen

Sunyer, R., Trepat, X., Fredberg, J. J., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2009). The temperature dependence of cell mechanics measured by atomic force microscopy Physical Biology 6, (2), 25009

The cytoskeleton is a complex polymer network that regulates the structural stability of living cells. Although the cytoskeleton plays a key role in many important cell functions, the mechanisms that regulate its mechanical behaviour are poorly understood. Potential mechanisms include the entropic elasticity of cytoskeletal filaments, glassy-like inelastic rearrangements of cross-linking proteins and the activity of contractile molecular motors that sets the tensional stress (prestress) borne by the cytoskeleton filaments. The contribution of these mechanisms can be assessed by studying how cell mechanics depends on temperature. The aim of this work was to elucidate the effect of temperature on cell mechanics using atomic force microscopy. We measured the complex shear modulus (G*) of human alveolar epithelial cells over a wide frequency range (0.1-25.6 Hz) at different temperatures (13-37 degrees C). In addition, we probed cell prestress by mapping the contractile forces that cells exert on the substrate by means of traction microscopy. To assess the role of actomyosin contraction in the temperature-induced changes in G* and cell prestress, we inhibited the Rho kinase pathway of the myosin light chain phosphorylation with Y-27632. Our results show that with increasing temperature, cells become stiffer and more solid-like. Cell prestress also increases with temperature. Inhibiting actomyosin contraction attenuated the temperature dependence of G* and prestress. We conclude that the dependence of cell mechanics with temperature is dominated by the contractile activity of molecular motors.

Keywords: Membrane Stress Failure, Frog Skeletal-Muscle, Extracellular-Matrix, Glass-Transition, Energy Landscape, Actin-Filaments, Living Cell, Single, Traction, Cytoskeleton