Fiber alignment in 3D collagen networks as a biophysical marker for cell contractility

Böhringer D, Bauer A, Moravec I, Bischof L, Kah DTE, Mark C, Grundy TJ, Görlach E, O'Neill GM, Budday S, Strissel P, Strick R, Malandrino A, Gerum R, Mak M, Rausch M, Fabry B (2023)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2023


Book Volume: 124

Pages Range: 39-48

DOI: 10.1016/j.matbio.2023.11.004


Cells cultured in 3D fibrous biopolymer matrices exert traction forces on their environment that induce deformations and remodeling of the fiber network. By measuring these deformations, the traction forces can be reconstructed if the mechanical properties of the matrix and the force-free matrix configuration are known. These requirements limit the applicability of traction force reconstruction in practice. In this study, we test whether force-induced matrix remodeling can instead be used as a proxy for cellular traction forces. We measure the traction forces of hepatic stellate cells and different glioblastoma cell lines and quantify matrix remodeling by measuring the fiber orientation and fiber density around these cells. In agreement with simulated fiber networks, we demonstrate that changes in local fiber orientation and density are directly related to cell forces. By resolving Rho-kinase (ROCK) inhibitor-induced changes of traction forces, fiber alignment, and fiber density in hepatic stellate cells, we show that the method is suitable for drug screening assays. We conclude that differences in local fiber orientation and density, which are easily measurable, can be used as a qualitative proxy for changes in traction forces. The method is available as an open-source Python package with a graphical user interface.

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Böhringer, D., Bauer, A., Moravec, I., Bischof, L., Kah, D.-T.E., Mark, C.,... Fabry, B. (2023). Fiber alignment in 3D collagen networks as a biophysical marker for cell contractility. Matrix Biology, 124, 39-48.


Böhringer, David, et al. "Fiber alignment in 3D collagen networks as a biophysical marker for cell contractility." Matrix Biology 124 (2023): 39-48.

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