Extracellular mechanical forces result in changes in gene expression, but it is unclear how cells are able to permanently adapt to new mechanical environments because chemical signaling pathways are short-lived. We visualize force-induced changes in nuclear rheology to examine short- and long-time genome organization and movements. Punctate labels in the nuclear interior of HeLa, human umbilical vein endothelial, and osteosarcoma (Saos-2) cells allow tracking of nuclear movements in cells under varying levels of shear and compressive force. Under adequate shear stress two distinct regimes develop in cells under mechanical stimulation: an initial event of increased intranuclear movement followed by a regime of intranuclear movements that reflect the dose of applied force. At early times there is a nondirectionally oriented response with a small increase in nuclear translocations. After 30 min, there is a significant increase in nuclear movements, which scales with the amount of shear or compressive stress. The similarities in the nuclear response to shear and compressive stress suggest that the nucleus is a mechanosensitive element within the cell. Thus, applied extracellular forces stimulate intranuclear movements, resulting in repositioning of nuclear bodies and the associated chromatin within the nucleus.
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