Uncoupling shear and uniaxial elastic moduli of semiflexible biopolymer networks: compression-softening and stretch-stiffening

Sci Rep. 2016 Jan 13;6:19270. doi: 10.1038/srep19270.


Gels formed by semiflexible filaments such as most biopolymers exhibit non-linear behavior in their response to shear deformation, e.g., with a pronounced strain stiffening and negative normal stress. These negative normal stresses suggest that networks would collapse axially when subject to shear stress. This coupling of axial and shear deformations can have particularly important consequences for extracellular matrices and collagenous tissues. Although measurements of uniaxial moduli have been made on biopolymer gels, these have not directly been related to the shear response. Here, we report measurements and simulations of axial and shear stresses exerted by a range of hydrogels subjected to simultaneous uniaxial and shear strains. These studies show that, in contrast to volume-conserving linearly elastic hydrogels, the Young's moduli of networks formed by the biopolymers are not proportional to their shear moduli and both shear and uniaxial moduli are strongly affected by even modest degrees of uniaxial strain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biopolymers / chemistry*
  • Elastic Modulus*
  • Elasticity
  • Pressure
  • Rheology
  • Shear Strength*
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Biopolymers