A new view of mechanotransduction and strain amplification in cells with microvilli and cell processes

Biorheology. 2001;38(2-3):119-42.


In this paper we shall describe new mechanical models for the deformation of the actin filament bundles in kidney microvilli and osteocytic cell processes to see whether these cellular extensions, like the stereocilia on hair cells in the inner ear, can function as mechanotransducers when subject to physiological flow. In the case of kidney microvilli we show that the hydrodynamic drag forces at the microvilli tip are <0.01 pN, but there is a 38-fold force amplification on the actin filaments at the base of the microvilli due to the resisting moment in its terminal web. This leads to forces that are more than sufficient to deform the terminal web complex of the microvillus where ezrin has been shown to couple the actin cytoskeleton to the Na(+)/H(+) exchanger. In the case of bone cell processes we show that the actin filament bundles have an effective Young's modulus that is 200 times > the measured modulus for the actin gel in the cell body. It is, therefore, unlikely that bone cell processes respond in vivo to fluid shear stress, as proposed in [59]. However, we show that the fluid drag forces on the pericellular matrix which tethers the cell processes to the canalicular wall can produce a 20-100 fold amplification of bone tissue strains in the actin filament bundle of the cell process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / ultrastructure
  • Microvilli / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Osteocytes / physiology
  • Osteocytes / ultrastructure
  • Rheology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical