Physical limits to biomechanical sensing in disordered fibre networks.

TitlePhysical limits to biomechanical sensing in disordered fibre networks.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsBeroz, F, Jawerth, LM, Münster, S, Weitz, DA, Broedersz, CP, Wingreen, NS
JournalNat Commun
Date Published2017 Jul 18

Cells actively probe and respond to the stiffness of their surroundings. Since mechanosensory cells in connective tissue are surrounded by a disordered network of biopolymers, their in vivo mechanical environment can be extremely heterogeneous. Here we investigate how this heterogeneity impacts mechanosensing by modelling the cell as an idealized local stiffness sensor inside a disordered fibre network. For all types of networks we study, including experimentally-imaged collagen and fibrin architectures, we find that measurements applied at different points yield a strikingly broad range of local stiffnesses, spanning roughly two decades. We verify via simulations and scaling arguments that this broad range of local stiffnesses is a generic property of disordered fibre networks. Finally, we show that to obtain optimal, reliable estimates of global tissue stiffness, a cell must adjust its size, shape, and position to integrate multiple stiffness measurements over extended regions of space.

Alternate JournalNat Commun
PubMed ID28719577
PubMed Central IDPMC5520107