Transfer of macroscale tissue strain to microscale cell regions in the deformed meniscus

Biophys J. 2008 Aug;95(4):2116-24. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.107.126938. Epub 2008 May 16.


Cells within fibrocartilaginous tissues, including chondrocytes and fibroblasts of the meniscus, ligament, and tendon, regulate cell biosynthesis in response to local mechanical stimuli. The processes by which an applied mechanical load is transferred through the extracellular matrix to the environment of a cell are not fully understood. To better understand the role of mechanics in controlling cell phenotype and biosynthetic activity, this study was conducted to measure strain at different length scales in tissue of the fibrocartilaginous meniscus of the knee joint, and to define a quantitative parameter that describes the strain transferred from the far-field tissue to a microenvironment surrounding a cell. Experiments were performed to apply a controlled uniaxial tensile deformation to explants of porcine meniscus containing live cells. Using texture correlation analyses of confocal microscopy images, two-dimensional Lagrangian and principal strains were measured at length scales representative of the tissue (macroscale) and microenvironment in the region of a cell (microscale) to yield a strain transfer ratio as a measure of median microscale to macroscale strain. The data demonstrate that principal strains at the microscale are coupled to and amplified from macroscale principal strains for a majority of cell microenvironments located across diverse microstructural regions, with average strain transfer ratios of 1.6 and 2.9 for the maximum and minimum principal strains, respectively. Lagrangian strain components calculated along the experimental axes of applied deformations exhibited considerable spatial heterogeneity and intersample variability, and suggest the existence of both strain amplification and attenuation. This feature is consistent with an in-plane rotation of the principal strain axes relative to the experimental axes at the microscale that may result from fiber sliding, fiber twisting, and fiber-matrix interactions that are believed to be important for regulating deformation in other fibrocartilaginous tissues. The findings for consistent amplification of macroscale to microscale principal strains suggest a coordinated pattern of strain transfer from applied deformation to the microscale environment of a cell that is largely independent of these microstructural features in the fibrocartilaginous meniscus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Elasticity
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular / physiology*
  • Menisci, Tibial / cytology*
  • Menisci, Tibial / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Swine