In silico stress fibre content affects peak strain in cytoplasm and nucleus but not in the membrane for uniaxial substrate stretch

Med Biol Eng Comput. 2021 Sep;59(9):1933-1944. doi: 10.1007/s11517-021-02393-z. Epub 2021 Aug 14.


Existing in silico models for single cell mechanics feature limited representations of cytoskeletal structures that contribute substantially to the mechanics of a cell. We propose a micromechanical hierarchical approach to capture the mechanical contribution of actin stress fibres. For a cell-specific fibroblast geometry with membrane, cytoplasm and nucleus, the Mori-Tanaka homogenization method was employed to describe cytoplasmic inhomogeneities and constitutive contribution of actin stress fibres. The homogenization was implemented in a finite element model of the fibroblast attached to a substrate through focal adhesions. Strain in cell membrane, cytoplasm and nucleus due to uniaxial substrate stretch was assessed for different stress fibre volume fractions and different elastic modulus of the substrate. A considerable decrease of the peak strain with increasing stress fibre content was observed in cytoplasm and nucleus but not the membrane, whereas the peak strain in cytoplasm, nucleus and membrane increased for increasing elastic modulus of the substrate. Finite element mesh of reconstructed human fibroblast and intracellular strain distribution in cell subjected to substrate stretch.

Keywords: Cell mechanics; Cytoskeleton; Micromechanical homogenization; Mori-Tanaka scheme.