Hypergravity affects cell traction forces of fibroblasts

Julia Eckert, Jack J. W. A. van Loon, Lukas M. Eng, Thomas Schmidt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Cells sense and react on changes of the mechanical properties of their environment and, likewise, respond to external mechanical stress applied to them. However, whether the gravitational field as overall body force modulates cellular behavior is unclear. Different studies demonstrated that micro- and hypergravity influences the shape and elasticity of cells, initiate cytoskeleton reorganization, and influence cell motility. All these cellular properties are interconnected and contribute to forces that cells apply on their surrounding microenvironment. Yet, studies that investigated changes of cell traction forces under hypergravity conditions are scarce. Here, we performed hypergravity experiments on 3T3 fibroblast cells using the large-diameter centrifuge at the European Space Agency - European Space Research and Technology Centre. Cells were exposed to hypergravity of up to 19.5 g for 16 h in both the upright and the inverted orientation with respect to the g-force vector. We observed a decrease in cellular traction forces when the gravitational field was increased up to 5.4 g, followed by an increase of traction forces for higher gravity fields up to 19.5 g independent of the orientation of the gravity vector. We attribute the switch in cellular response to shear thinning at low g-forces, followed by significant rearrangement and enforcement of the cytoskeleton at high g-forces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-780
Number of pages8
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2021

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