Mechanics regulates ATP-stimulated collective calcium response in fibroblast cells.
Cells constantly sense their chemical and mechanical environments. We study the effect of mechanics on the ATP-induced collective calcium response of fibroblast cells in experiments that mimic various tissue environments. We find that closely packed two-dimensional cell cultures on a soft polyacrylamide gel (Young's modulus E = 690 Pa) contain more cells exhibiting calcium oscillations than cultures on a rigid substrate (E = 36 000 Pa). Calcium responses of cells on soft substrates show a slower decay of calcium level relative to those on rigid substrates. Actin enhancement and disruption experiments for the cell cultures allow us to conclude that actin filaments determine the collective Ca(2+) oscillatory behaviour in the culture. Inhibition of gap junctions results in a decrease of the oscillation period and reduced correlation of calcium responses, which suggests additional complexity of signalling upon cell-cell contact. Moreover, the frequency of calcium oscillations is independent of the rigidity of the substrate but depends on ATP concentration. We compare our results with those from similar experiments on individual cells. Overall, our observations show that collective chemical signalling in cell cultures via calcium depends critically on the mechanical environment.