Staff member


Núria Gavara Casas

Senior Researcher
Cellular and Respiratory Biomechanics
ngavara@ibecbarcelona.eu

Staff member publications

Marhuenda, Esther, Villarino, Alvaro, Narciso, Maria Leonor, Camprubí-Rimblas, Marta, Farré, Ramon, Gavara, Núria, Artigas, Antonio, Almendros, Isaac, Otero, Jorge, (2022). Lung Extracellular Matrix Hydrogels Enhance Preservation of Type II Phenotype in Primary Alveolar Epithelial Cells International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 4888

One of the main limitations of in vitro studies on lung diseases is the difficulty of maintaining the type II phenotype of alveolar epithelial cells in culture. This fact has previously been related to the translocation of the mechanosensing Yes-associated protein (YAP) to the nuclei and Rho signaling pathway. In this work, we aimed to culture and subculture primary alveolar type II cells on extracellular matrix lung-derived hydrogels to assess their suitability for phenotype maintenance. Cells cultured on lung hydrogels formed monolayers and maintained type II phenotype for a longer time as compared with those conventionally cultured. Interestingly, cells successfully grew when they were subsequently cultured on a dish. Moreover, cells cultured on a plate showed the active form of the YAP protein and the formation of stress fibers and focal adhesions. The results of chemically inhibiting the Rho pathway strongly suggest that this is one of the mechanisms by which the hydrogel promotes type II phenotype maintenance. These results regarding protein expression strongly suggest that the chemical and biophysical properties of the hydrogel have a considerable impact on the transition from ATII to ATI phenotypes. In conclusion, culturing primary alveolar epithelial cells on lung ECM-derived hydrogels may facilitate the prolonged culturing of these cells, and thus help in the research on lung diseases.


Marhuenda, Esther, Villarino, Alvaro, Narciso, Maria Leonor, Camprubí-Rimblas, Marta, Farré, Ramon, Gavara, Núria, Artigas, Antonio, Almendros, Isaac, Otero, Jorge, (2022). Differences in Tau Seeding in Newborn and Adult Wild-Type Mice International Journal Of Molecular Sciences 23, 4789

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other tauopathies are common neurodegenerative diseases in older adults; in contrast, abnormal tau deposition in neurons and glial cells occurs only exceptionally in children. Sarkosyl-insoluble fractions from sporadic AD (sAD) containing paired helical filaments (PHFs) were inoculated unilaterally into the thalamus in newborn and three-month-old wild-type C57BL/6 mice, which were killed at different intervals from 24 h to six months after inoculation. Tau-positive cells were scanty and practically disappeared at three months in mice inoculated at the age of a newborn. In contrast, large numbers of tau-positive cells, including neurons and oligodendrocytes, were found in the thalamus of mice inoculated at three months and killed at the ages of six months and nine months. Mice inoculated at the age of newborn and re-inoculated at the age of three months showed similar numbers and distribution of positive cells in the thalamus at six months and nine months. This study shows that (a) differences in tau seeding between newborn and young adults may be related to the ratios between 3Rtau and 4Rtau, and the shift to 4Rtau predominance in adults, together with the immaturity of connections in newborn mice, and (b) intracerebral inoculation of sAD PHFs in newborn mice does not protect from tau seeding following intracerebral inoculation of sAD PHFs in young/adult mice.


Puig, F., Gavara, N., Sunyer, R., Carreras, A., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2009). Stiffening and contraction induced by dexamethasone in alveolar epithelial cells Experimental Mechanics , 49, (1), 47-55

The structural integrity of the alveolar monolayer, which is compromised during lung inflammation, is determined by the balance between cell-cell and cell-matrix tethering forces and the centripetal forces owing to cell viscoelasticity and contraction. Dexamethasone is an anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid with protective effects in lung injury. To determine the effects of Dexamethasone on the stiffness and contractility of alveolar epithelial cells. Cell stiffness (G') and average traction exerted by the cell (T) were measured by magnetic twisting cytometry and by traction microscopy, respectively. A549 cells were treated 24 h with Dexamethasone (1 mu M) or vehicle (control). G' and T were measured before and 5 min after challenge with the inflammatory mediator Thrombin (0.5 U/ml). Changes induced by Dexamethasone in actin cytoskeleton polymerization were assessed by the fluorescent ratio between F-actin and G-actin obtained by staining cells with phalloidin and DNase I. Dexamethasone significantly increased G' and T by 56% (n = 11; p < 0.01) and by 80% (n = 17; p < 0.05), respectively. Dexamethasone also increased F/G-actin ratio from 2.68 +/- 0.07 to 2.96 +/- 0.09 (n = 10; p < 0.05). The relative increase in stiffness and contraction induced by Thrombin in control cells was significantly (p < 0.05) reduced by Dexamethasone treatment: from 190 to 98% in G' and from 318 to 105% in T. The cytoskeleton remodelling and the increase in cell stiffness and contraction induced by Dexamethasone could account for its protective effect in the alveolar epithelium when subjected to inflammatory challenge.

Keywords: Cell mechanics, Cytoskeleton, Magnetic twisting cytometry, Traction microscopy, Respiratory diseases


Gavara, N., Roca-Cusachs, P., Sunyer, R., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2008). Mapping cell-matrix stresses during stretch reveals inelastic reorganization of the cytoskeleton Biophysical Journal , 95, (1), 464-471

The mechanical properties of the living cell are intimately related to cell signaling biology through cytoskeletal tension. The tension borne by the cytoskeleton (CSK) is in part generated internally by the actomyosin machinery and externally by stretch. Here we studied how cytoskeletal tension is modified during stretch and the tensional changes undergone by the sites of cell-matrix interaction. To this end we developed a novel technique to map cell-matrix stresses during application of stretch. We found that cell-matrix stresses increased with imposition of stretch but dropped below baseline levels on stretch release. Inhibition of the actomyosin machinery resulted in a larger relative increase in CSK tension with stretch and in a smaller drop in tension after stretch release. Cell-matrix stress maps showed that the loci of cell adhesion initially bearing greater stress also exhibited larger drops in traction forces after stretch removal. Our results suggest that stretch partially disrupts the actin-myosin apparatus and the cytoskeletal structures that support the largest CSK tension. These findings indicate that cells use the mechanical energy injected by stretch to rapidly reorganize their structure and redistribute tension.

Keywords: Cell Line, Computer Simulation, Cytoskeleton/ physiology, Elasticity, Epithelial Cells/ physiology, Extracellular Matrix/ physiology, Humans, Mechanotransduction, Cellular/ physiology, Models, Biological, Stress, Mechanical