On-chip assessment of human primary cardiac fibroblasts proliferative responses to uniaxial cyclic mechanical strain

Biotechnol Bioeng. 2016 Apr;113(4):859-69. doi: 10.1002/bit.25847. Epub 2015 Oct 26.


Cardiac cell function is substantially influenced by the nature and intensity of the mechanical loads the cells experience. Cardiac fibroblasts (CFs) are primarily involved in myocardial tissue remodeling: at the onset of specific pathological conditions, CFs activate, proliferate, differentiate, and critically alter the amount of myocardial extra-cellular matrix with important consequences for myocardial functioning. While cyclic mechanical strain has been shown to increase matrix synthesis of CFs in vitro, the role of mechanical cues in CFs proliferation is unclear. We here developed a multi-chamber cell straining microdevice for cell cultures under uniform, uniaxial cyclic strain. After careful characterization of the strain field, we extracted human heart-derived CFs and performed cyclic strain experiments. We subjected cells to 2% or 8% cyclic strain for 24 h or 72 h, using immunofluorescence to investigate markers of cell morphology, cell proliferation (Ki67, EdU, phospho-Histone-H3) and subcellular localization of the mechanotransduction-associated transcription factor YAP. Cell morphology was affected by cyclic strain in terms of cell area, cell and nuclear shape and cellular alignment. We additionally observed a strain intensity-dependent control of cell growth: a significant proliferation increase occurred at 2% cyclic strain, while time-dependent effects took place upon 8% cyclic strain. The YAP-dependent mechano-transduction pathway was similarly activated in both strain conditions. These results demonstrate a differential effect of cyclic strain intensity on human CFs proliferation control and provide insights into the YAP-dependent mechano-sensing machinery of human CFs.

Keywords: cell proliferation; cyclic strain; human cardiac fibroblasts; mechanobiology; mechanotransduction; microdevice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Cell Culture Techniques / instrumentation
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytological Techniques / instrumentation
  • Cytological Techniques / methods
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular*
  • Stress, Mechanical*


  • Biomarkers