Published: December 2023
Recent experimental evidence indicates a role for the intermediate filament vimentin in regulating cellular mechanical homeostasis, but its precise contribution remains to be discovered. Mechanical homeostasis requires a balanced bi-directional interplay between the cell’s microenvironment and the cellular morphological and mechanical state—this balance being regulated via processes of mechanotransduction and mechanoresponse, commonly referred to as mechanoreciprocity. Here, we systematically analyze vimentin-expressing and vimentin-depleted cells in a swatch of in vitro cellular microenvironments varying in stiffness and/or ECM density. We find that vimentin-expressing cells maintain mechanical homeostasis by adapting cellular morphology and mechanics to micromechanical changes in the microenvironment. However, vimentin-depleted cells lose this mechanoresponse ability on short timescales, only to reacquire it on longer time scales. Indeed, we find that the morphology and mechanics of vimentin-depleted cell in stiffened microenvironmental conditions can get restored to the homeostatic levels of vimentin-expressing cells. Additionally, we observed vimentin-depleted cells increasing collagen matrix synthesis and its crosslinking, a phenomenon which is known to increase matrix stiffness, and which we now hypothesize to be a cellular compensation mechanism for the loss of vimentin. Taken together, our findings provide further insight in the regulating role of intermediate filament vimentin in mediating mechanoreciprocity and mechanical homeostasis.
Full Access Link: Scientific Reports