Cyclic stretching of endothelial cells (ECs), such as occurs in arteries during the cardiac cycle, induces ECs and their actin stress fibers to orient perpendicular to the direction of maximum stretch. This perpendicular alignment response is strengthened by increasing the magnitudes of stretch and cell contractility (1). The actin cytoskeleton is a dynamic structure that regulates cell shape changes and mechanical properties. It has been shown that actin stress fibers are ‘prestretched’ under normal, non-perturbed, conditions (2), consistent with the ideas of ‘prestress’ that have motivated tensegrity cell models (3). It has also been shown that ‘tractional forces’ generated by cells at focal adhesions tend to increase proportionately with increasing focal adhesion area, thus suggesting that cells tend to maintain constant the stress borne by a focal adhesion (4). By implication, this suggests that cells try to maintain constant the stress in actin stress fibers. Thus, it seems that cells reorganize or turnover cytoskeletal proteins and adhesion complexes so as to maintain constant a preferred mechanical state. Mizutani et al. (5) referred to this as cellular tensional homeostasis, although they did not suggest a model or theory to account for this dynamic process.

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