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Publications

by Keyword: Traction force

Hino N, Matsuda K, Jikko Y, Maryu G, Sakai K, Imamura R, Tsukiji S, Aoki K, Terai K, Hirashima T, Trepat X, Matsuda M, (2022). A feedback loop between lamellipodial extension and HGF-ERK signaling specifies leader cells during collective cell migration Developmental Cell 57, 2290-2304.e7

Upon the initiation of collective cell migration, the cells at the free edge are specified as leader cells; however, the mechanism underlying the leader cell specification remains elusive. Here, we show that lamellipodial extension after the release from mechanical confinement causes sustained extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activation and underlies the leader cell specification. Live-imaging of Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells and mouse epidermis through the use of Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based biosensors showed that leader cells exhibit sustained ERK activation in a hepatocyte growth factor (HGF)-dependent manner. Meanwhile, follower cells exhibit oscillatory ERK activation waves in an epidermal growth factor (EGF) signaling-dependent manner. Lamellipodial extension at the free edge increases the cellular sensitivity to HGF. The HGF-dependent ERK activation, in turn, promotes lamellipodial extension, thereby forming a positive feedback loop between cell extension and ERK activation and specifying the cells at the free edge as the leader cells. Our findings show that the integration of physical and biochemical cues underlies the leader cell specification during collective cell migration.Copyright © 2022 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: Collective cell migration, Erk, Feedback regulation, Fret, Hgf, Lamellipodia, Leader cell specification, Signal transduction, Traction force, Wound healing


Zambarda C, Pérez González C, Schoenit A, Veits N, Schimmer C, Jung R, Ollech D, Christian J, Roca-Cusachs P, Trepat X, Cavalcanti-Adam EA, (2022). Epithelial cell cluster size affects force distribution in response to EGF-induced collective contractility European Journal Of Cell Biology 101, 151274

Several factors present in the extracellular environment regulate epithelial cell adhesion and dynamics. Among them, growth factors such as EGF, upon binding to their receptors at the cell surface, get internalized and directly activate the acto-myosin machinery. In this study we present the effects of EGF on the contractility of epithelial cancer cell colonies in confined geometry of different sizes. We show that the extent to which EGF triggers contractility scales with the cluster size and thus the number of cells. Moreover, the collective contractility results in a radial distribution of traction forces, which are dependent on integrin β1 peripheral adhesions and transmitted to neighboring cells through adherens junctions. Taken together, EGF-induced contractility acts on the mechanical crosstalk and linkage between the cell-cell and cell-matrix compartments, regulating collective responses.Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier GmbH.. All rights reserved.

JTD Keywords: actin, activation, actomyosin, adherens junctions, adhesion, e-cadherin, egf, maturation, mechanical regulation, micropatterning, migration, traction forces, transduction, transmission, Actomyosin, Adherens junctions, Collective contractility, Egf, Epidermal-growth-factor, Micropatterning, Traction forces


Lopez-Mengual, A, Segura-Feliu, M, Sunyer, R, Sanz-Fraile, H, Otero, J, Mesquida-Veny, F, Gil, V, Hervera, A, Ferrer, I, Soriano, J, Trepat, X, Farre, R, Navajas, D, del Rio, JA, (2022). Involvement of Mechanical Cues in the Migration of Cajal-Retzius Cells in the Marginal Zone During Neocortical Development Frontiers In Cell And Developmental Biology 10,

Emerging evidence points to coordinated action of chemical and mechanical cues during brain development. At early stages of neocortical development, angiogenic factors and chemokines such as CXCL12, ephrins, and semaphorins assume crucial roles in orchestrating neuronal migration and axon elongation of postmitotic neurons. Here we explore the intrinsic mechanical properties of the developing marginal zone of the pallium in the migratory pathways and brain distribution of the pioneer Cajal-Retzius cells. These neurons are generated in several proliferative regions in the developing brain (e.g., the cortical hem and the pallial subpallial boundary) and migrate tangentially in the preplate/marginal zone covering the upper portion of the developing cortex. These cells play crucial roles in correct neocortical layer formation by secreting several molecules such as Reelin. Our results indicate that the motogenic properties of Cajal-Retzius cells and their perinatal distribution in the marginal zone are modulated by both chemical and mechanical factors, by the specific mechanical properties of Cajal-Retzius cells, and by the differential stiffness of the migratory routes. Indeed, cells originating in the cortical hem display higher migratory capacities than those generated in the pallial subpallial boundary which may be involved in the differential distribution of these cells in the dorsal-lateral axis in the developing marginal zone.

JTD Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Cajal-retzius cells, Central-nervous-system, Cortical development, Cortical hem, Developing cerebral-cortex, Expression, Growth, Marginal zone, Mechanical cues, Mouse, Neuronal migration, Nogo receptor, Olfactory ensheathing cells, Tangential migration, Traction force microscopy


Przybyla, L., Lakins, J. N., Sunyer, R., Trepat, X., Weaver, V. M., (2016). Monitoring developmental force distributions in reconstituted embryonic epithelia Methods , 94, 101-113

The way cells are organized within a tissue dictates how they sense and respond to extracellular signals, as cues are received and interpreted based on expression and organization of receptors, downstream signaling proteins, and transcription factors. Part of this microenvironmental context is the result of forces acting on the cell, including forces from other cells or from the cellular substrate or basement membrane. However, measuring forces exerted on and by cells is difficult, particularly in an in vivo context, and interpreting how forces affect downstream cellular processes poses an even greater challenge. Here, we present a simple method for monitoring and analyzing forces generated from cell collectives. We demonstrate the ability to generate traction force data from human embryonic stem cells grown in large organized epithelial sheets to determine the magnitude and organization of cell-ECM and cell-cell forces within a self-renewing colony. We show that this method can be used to measure forces in a dynamic hESC system and demonstrate the ability to map intracolony protein localization to force organization.

JTD Keywords: Epiblast, Human embryonic stem cells, Mechanotransduction, Monolayer stress microscopy, Self-organization, Traction force


Brask, J. B., Singla-Buxarrais, G., Uroz, M., Vincent, R., Trepat, X., (2015). Compressed sensing traction force microscopy Acta Biomaterialia 26, 286-294

Adherent cells exert traction forces on their substrate, and these forces play important roles in biological functions such as mechanosensing, cell differentiation and cancer invasion. The method of choice to assess these active forces is traction force microscopy (TFM). Despite recent advances, TFM remains highly sensitive to measurement noise and exhibits limited spatial resolution. To improve the resolution and noise robustness of TFM, here we adapt techniques from compressed sensing (CS) to the reconstruction of the traction field from the substrate displacement field. CS enables the recovery of sparse signals at higher resolution from lower resolution data. Focal adhesions (FAs) of adherent cells are spatially sparse implying that traction fields are also sparse. Here we show, by simulation and by experiment, that the CS approach enables circumventing the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem to faithfully reconstruct the traction field at a higher resolution than that of the displacement field. This allows reaching state-of-the-art resolution using only a medium magnification objective. We also find that CS improves reconstruction quality in the presence of noise. Statement of Significance A great scientific advance of the past decade is the recognition that physical forces determine an increasing list of biological processes. Traction force microscopy which measures the forces that cells exert on their surroundings has seen significant recent improvements, however the technique remains sensitive to measurement noise and severely limited in spatial resolution. We exploit the fact that the force fields are sparse to boost the spatial resolution and noise robustness by applying ideas from compressed sensing. The novel method allows high resolution on a larger field of view. This may in turn allow better understanding of the cell forces at the multicellular level, which are known to be important in wound healing and cancer invasion.

JTD Keywords: Compressed sensing, High resolution, Traction force microscopy


Reginensi, Diego, Carulla, Patricia, Nocentini, Sara, Seira, Oscar, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Torres-Espín, Abel, Matamoros-Angles, Andreu, Gavín, Rosalina, Moreno-Flores, María Teresa, Wandosell, Francisco, Samitier, Josep, Trepat, Xavier, Navarro, Xavier, del Río, José Antonio, (2015). Increased migration of olfactory ensheathing cells secreting the Nogo receptor ectodomain over inhibitory substrates and lesioned spinal cord Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences , 72, (14), 2719-2737

Olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC) transplantation emerged some years ago as a promising therapeutic strategy to repair injured spinal cord. However, inhibitory molecules are present for long periods of time in lesioned spinal cord, inhibiting both OEC migration and axonal regrowth. Two families of these molecules, chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPG) and myelin-derived inhibitors (MAIs), are able to trigger inhibitory responses in lesioned axons. Mounting evidence suggests that OEC migration is inhibited by myelin. Here we demonstrate that OEC migration is largely inhibited by CSPGs and that inhibition can be overcome by the bacterial enzyme Chondroitinase ABC. In parallel, we have generated a stable OEC cell line overexpressing the Nogo receptor (NgR) ectodomain to reduce MAI-associated inhibition in vitro and in vivo. Results indicate that engineered cells migrate longer distances than unmodified OECs over myelin or oligodendrocyte-myelin glycoprotein (OMgp)-coated substrates. In addition, they also show improved migration in lesioned spinal cord. Our results provide new insights toward the improvement of the mechanisms of action and optimization of OEC-based cell therapy for spinal cord lesion.

JTD Keywords: Olfactory ensheathing cells, Traction force microscopy, Chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans, Cell migration, Nogo receptor ectodomain


Mrkonji, Garcia-Elias, A., Pardo-Pastor, C., Bazellières, E., Trepat, X., Vriens, J., Ghosh, D., Voets, T., Vicente, R., Valverde, M. A., (2015). TRPV4 participates in the establishment of trailing adhesions and directional persistence of migrating cells Pflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology , 467, (10), 2107-2119

Calcium signaling participates in different cellular processes leading to cell migration. TRPV4, a non-selective cation channel that responds to mechano-osmotic stimulation and heat, is also involved in cell migration. However, the mechanistic involvement of TRPV4 in cell migration is currently unknown. We now report that expression of the mutant channel TRPV4-121AAWAA (lacking the phosphoinositide-binding site 121KRWRK125 and the response to physiological stimuli) altered HEK293 cell migration. Altered migration patterns included periods of fast and persistent motion followed by periods of stalling and turning, and the extension of multiple long cellular protrusions. TRPV4-WT overexpressing cells showed almost complete loss of directionality with frequent turns, no progression, and absence of long protrusions. Traction microscopy revealed higher tractions forces in the tail of TRPV4-121AAWAA than in TRPV4-WT expressing cells. These results are consistent with a defective and augmented tail retraction in TRPV4-121AAWAA- and TRPV4-WT-expressing cells, respectively. The activity of calpain, a protease implicated in focal adhesion (FA) disassembly, was decreased in TRPV4-121AAWAA compared with TRPV4-WT-expressing cells. Consistently, larger focal adhesions were seen in TRPV4-121AAWAA compared with TRPV4-WT-expressing HEK293 cells, a result that was also reproduced in T47D and U87 cells. Similarly, overexpression of the pore-dead mutant TRPV4-M680D resumed the TRPV4-121AAWAA phenotype presenting larger FA. The migratory phenotype obtained in HEK293 cells overexpressing TRPV4-121AAWAA was mimicked by knocking-down TRPC1, a cationic channel that participates in cell migration. Together, our results point to the participation of TRPV4 in the dynamics of trailing adhesions, a function that may require the interplay of TRPV4 with other cation channels or proteins present at the FA sites.

JTD Keywords: Calcium, Calpain, Focal adhesion, Migration, Traction forces, TRPV4


Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Conte, Vito, Sunyer, Raimon, Muñoz, José J., Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Mapping forces and kinematics during collective cell migration Methods in Cell Biology - Biophysical Methods in Cell Biology (ed. Wilson, L., Tran, P.), Academic Press (Santa Barbara, USA) 125, 309-330

Abstract Fundamental biological processes including morphogenesis and tissue repair require cells to migrate collectively. In these processes, epithelial or endothelial cells move in a cooperative manner coupled by intercellular junctions. Ultimately, the movement of these multicellular systems occurs through the generation of cellular forces, exerted either on the substrate via focal adhesions (cell–substrate forces) or on neighboring cells through cell–cell junctions (cell–cell forces). Quantitative measurements of multicellular forces and kinematics with cellular or subcellular resolution have become possible only in recent years. In this chapter, we describe some of these techniques, which include particle image velocimetry to map cell velocities, traction force microscopy to map forces exerted by cells on the substrate, and monolayer stress microscopy to map forces within and between cells. We also describe experimental protocols to perform these measurements. The combination of these techniques with high-resolution imaging tools and molecular perturbations will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms underlying collective cell migration in health and disease.

JTD Keywords: Collective cell migration, Monolayer stress microscopy, Traction force microscopy


Nocentini, S., Reginensi, D., Garcia, S., Carulla, P., Moreno-Flores, Wandosell, F., Trepat, X., Bribian, A., Del Rí, (2012). Myelin-associated proteins block the migration of olfactory ensheathing cells: an in vitro study using single-cell tracking and traction force microscopy Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences , 69, (10), 1689-1703

Newly generated olfactory receptor axons grow from the peripheral to the central nervous system aided by olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs). Thus, OEC transplantation has emerged as a promising therapy for spinal cord injuries and for other neural diseases. However, these cells do not present a uniform population, but instead a functionally heterogeneous population that exhibits a variety of responses including adhesion, repulsion, and crossover during cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions. Some studies report that the migratory properties of OECs are compromised by inhibitory molecules and potentiated by chemical gradients. Here, we demonstrated that rodent OECs express all the components of the Nogo receptor complex and that their migration is blocked by myelin. Next, we used cell tracking and traction force microscopy to analyze OEC migration and its mechanical properties over myelin. Our data relate the decrease of traction force of OEC with lower migratory capacity over myelin, which correlates with changes in the F-actin cytoskeleton and focal adhesion distribution. Lastly, OEC traction force and migratory capacity is enhanced after cell incubation with the Nogo receptor inhibitor NEP1-40.

JTD Keywords: Ensheathing glia, Traction force, microscopy, Migration, Myelin-associated inhibitors


Krishnan, Ramaswamy, Klumpers, Darinka D., Park, Chan Y., Rajendran, Kavitha, Trepat, Xavier, van Bezu, Jan, van Hinsbergh, Victor W. M., Carman, Christopher V., Brain, Joseph D., Fredberg, Jeffrey J., Butler, James P., van Nieuw Amerongen, Geerten P., (2011). Substrate stiffening promotes endothelial monolayer disruption through enhanced physical forces American Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology , 300, (1), C146-C154

A hallmark of many, sometimes life-threatening, inflammatory diseases and disorders is vascular leakage. The extent and severity of vascular leakage is broadly mediated by the integrity of the endothelial cell (EC) monolayer, which is in turn governed by three major interactions: cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, soluble mediators, and biomechanical forces. A potentially critical but essentially uninvestigated component mediating these interactions is the stiffness of the substrate to which the endothelial monolayer is adherent. Accordingly, we investigated the extent to which substrate stiffening influences endothelial monolayer disruption and the role of cell-cell and cell-substrate contacts, soluble mediators, and physical forces in that process. Traction force microscopy showed that forces between cell and cell and between cell and substrate were greater on stiffer substrates. On stiffer substrates, these forces were substantially enhanced by a hyperpermeability stimulus (thrombin, 1 U/ml), and gaps formed between cells. On softer substrates, by contrast, these forces were increased far less by thrombin, and gaps did not form between cells. This stiffness-dependent force enhancement was associated with increased Rho kinase activity, whereas inhibition of Rho kinase attenuated baseline forces and lessened thrombin-induced inter-EC gap formation. Our findings demonstrate a central role of physical forces in EC gap formation and highlight a novel physiological mechanism. Integrity of the endothelial monolayer is governed by its physical microenvironment, which in normal circumstances is compliant but during pathology becomes stiffer.

JTD Keywords: Contraction, Human umbilical vein endothelial cells, Permeability, Traction force, Cell-cell contact, Cell-substrate contact, Substrate stiffness, Rho kinase, Vascular endothelial cadherin, Thrombin


Moore, S. W., Roca-Cusachs, P., Sheetz, M. P., (2010). Stretchy proteins on stretchy substrates: The important elements of integrin-mediated rigidity sensing Developmental Cell 19, (2), 194-206

Matrix and tissue rigidity guides many cellular processes, including the differentiation of stem cells and the migration of cells in health and disease. Cells actively and transiently test rigidity using mechanisms limited by inherent physical parameters that include the strength of extracellular attachments, the pulling capacity on these attachments, and the sensitivity of the mechanotransduction system. Here, we focus on rigidity sensing mediated through the integrin family of extracellular matrix receptors and linked proteins and discuss the evidence supporting these proteins as mechanosensors.

JTD Keywords: Focal adhesion kinase, Atomic Force Microscopy, Smooth-muscle cells, Traction forces, Living cells, Mechanical force, Locomoting cells