Mechanical Stiffness Controls Dendritic Cell Metabolism and Function

Cell Rep. 2021 Jan 12;34(2):108609. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108609.


Stiffness in the tissue microenvironment changes in most diseases and immunological conditions, but its direct influence on the immune system is poorly understood. Here, we show that static tension impacts immune cell function, maturation, and metabolism. Bone-marrow-derived and/or splenic dendritic cells (DCs) grown in vitro at physiological resting stiffness have reduced proliferation, activation, and cytokine production compared with cells grown under higher stiffness, mimicking fibro-inflammatory disease. Consistently, DCs grown under higher stiffness show increased activation and flux of major glucose metabolic pathways. In DC models of autoimmune diabetes and tumor immunotherapy, tension primes DCs to elicit an adaptive immune response. Mechanistic workup identifies the Hippo-signaling molecule, TAZ, as well as Ca2+-related ion channels, including potentially PIEZO1, as important effectors impacting DC metabolism and function under tension. Tension also directs the phenotypes of monocyte-derived DCs in humans. Thus, mechanical stiffness is a critical environmental cue of DCs and innate immunity.

Keywords: PIEZO1; TAZ; danger signals; dendritic cells; immunometabolism; inflammation; innate immunity; mechanoimmunology; mechanosensing; tension.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vascular Stiffness / immunology*