Osteoblast cytoskeletal modulation in response to mechanical strain in vitro

J Orthop Res. 1998 Mar;16(2):170-80. doi: 10.1002/jor.1100160204.


The structural integrity of microfilaments has been shown to be necessary for the signal transduction of mechanical stimuli within osteoblasts. Qualitative and quantitative changes within the cytoskeleton of osteoblasts may therefore be crucial components of the signal transduction processes of these cells in response to mechanical stimulation. Avian osteoblasts were strained with a device that deforms a flexible, cell-laden membrane at a defined frequency and intensity in a uniform biaxial manner. We examined the effects of mechanical strain on the accumulation of protein and the expression of the major cytoskeletal elements and specific integrin-binding (arginine-glycine-aspartic acid) proteins of these cells. Mechanical strain increased the level of total extracellular matrix-accumulated fibronectin by approximately 150% and decreased that of osteopontin by approximately 60% but had no quantifiable effect on the accumulation of beta1 integrin subunit or collagen type I. An examination of the major elements of the cytoskeleton demonstrated that neither the level of actin nor that of the intermediate filament protein vimentin changed; however, the amount of tubulin decreased by approximately 75% and the amount of vinculin, a major protein of focal adhesion complexes, increased by approximately 250%. An analysis of protein synthesis by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of [35S]methionine-labeled cytoskeletal proteins demonstrated that the changes in the accumulation of vinculin and tubulin resulted from their altered synthesis. Messenger RNA analysis confirmed that the changes in accumulation and protein synthesis observed for vinculin, fibronectin, and osteopontin were controlled at a pretranslational level. Immunofluorescent microscopy demonstrated that mechanical strain led to increased formation and thickening of actin stress fibers, with a commensurate dissociation in microtubules and a clear increase in levels of vinculin at the peripheral edges of the cells. In conclusion, the elevated rate of synthesis and the increased accumulation of vinculin and fibronectin, as well as the increase in the number and size of stress fibers and focal adhesion complexes, suggest that mechanical strain leads to a coordinated change both in the cytoskeleton and in extracellular matrix proteins that will facilitate tighter adhesion of an osteoblast to its extracellular matrix.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / analysis
  • Actins / genetics
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Size / physiology
  • Chickens
  • Collagen / analysis
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / chemistry
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Fibronectins / analysis
  • Fibronectins / genetics
  • Fibronectins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression / physiology
  • Integrin beta1 / analysis
  • Integrin beta1 / metabolism
  • Osteoblasts / chemistry*
  • Osteoblasts / physiology*
  • Osteopontin
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Sialoglycoproteins / analysis
  • Sialoglycoproteins / genetics
  • Sialoglycoproteins / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Skull / cytology
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Tubulin / analysis
  • Tubulin / metabolism
  • Vimentin / analysis
  • Vimentin / metabolism
  • Vinculin / analysis
  • Vinculin / genetics
  • Vinculin / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Fibronectins
  • Integrin beta1
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Sialoglycoproteins
  • Tubulin
  • Vimentin
  • Osteopontin
  • Vinculin
  • Collagen