Mechanical stretching stimulates smooth muscle cell growth, nuclear protein import, and nuclear pore expression through mitogen-activated protein kinase activation

J Biol Chem. 2007 Aug 10;282(32):23081-8. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M703602200. Epub 2007 May 24.


Although it is known that mechanical stretching of cells can induce significant increases in cell growth and shape, the intracellular signaling pathways that induce this response at the level of the cell nucleus is unknown. The transport of molecules from the cell cytoplasm to the nucleoplasm through the nuclear pore is a key pathway through which gene expression can be controlled in some conditions. It is presently unknown if mechanical stimuli can induce changes in nuclear pore expression and/or function. The purpose of the present investigation was to determine if mechanical stretching of a cell will alter nuclear protein import and the mechanisms that may be responsible. Vascular smooth muscle cells that were mechanically stretched exhibited an increase in proliferating cell nuclear antigen expression, cell number, and cell size within 24-48 h. Cells were microinjected with marker proteins for nuclear import. Nuclear protein import was significantly stimulated in stretched cells when compared with control. This was associated with an increase in the expression of nuclear pore proteins as detected by Western blots. Inhibition of the MAPK pathway blocked the stretch-induced stimulation of both cell proliferation and nuclear protein import. We conclude that nuclear protein import and nuclear pore density can adapt to mechanical stimuli during the process of cell growth through a MAPK-mediated mechanism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Animals
  • Aorta, Thoracic / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Elasticity
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System
  • Models, Biological
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / cytology*
  • Nuclear Pore / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Rabbits
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Time Factors


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Nuclear Proteins