Cell shape regulates subcellular organelle location to control early Ca2+ signal dynamics in vascular smooth muscle cells

Sci Rep. 2020 Oct 20;10(1):17866. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-74700-x.


The shape of the cell is connected to its function; however, we do not fully understand underlying mechanisms by which global shape regulates a cell's functional capabilities. Using theory, experiments and simulation, we investigated how physiologically relevant cell shape changes affect subcellular organization, and consequently intracellular signaling, to control information flow needed for phenotypic function. Vascular smooth muscle cells going from a proliferative and motile circular shape to a contractile fusiform shape show changes in the location of the sarcoplasmic reticulum, inter-organelle distances, and differential distribution of receptors in the plasma membrane. These factors together lead to the modulation of signals transduced by the M3 muscarinic receptor/Gq/PLCβ pathway at the plasma membrane, amplifying Ca2+ dynamics in the cytoplasm, and the nucleus resulting in phenotypic changes, as determined by increased activity of myosin light chain kinase in the cytoplasm and enhanced nuclear localization of the transcription factor NFAT. Taken together, our observations show a systems level phenomenon whereby global cell shape affects subcellular organization to modulate signaling that enables phenotypic changes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Shape / physiology*
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / cytology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Organelles / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Subcellular Fractions / metabolism*