Early committed polarization of intracellular tension in response to cell shape determines the osteogenic differentiation of mesenchymal stromal cells

Ming Chung Wu, Helen Wenshin Yu, Yin Quan Chen, Meng Hsin Ou, Ricardo Serrano, Guan Lin Huang, Yang Kao Wang, Kung hui Lin, Yu Jui Fan, Chi Chang Wu, Juan C. del Álamo, Arthur Chiou, Shu Chien, Jean Cheng Kuo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Within the heterogeneous tissue architecture, a comprehensive understanding of how cell shapes regulate cytoskeletal mechanics by adjusting focal adhesions (FAs) signals to correlate with the lineage commitment of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) remains obscure. Here, via engineered extracellular matrices, we observed that the development of mature FAs, coupled with a symmetrical pattern of radial fiber bundles, appeared at the right-angle vertices in cells with square shape. While circular cells aligned the transverse fibers parallel to the cell edge, and moved them centripetally in a counter-clockwise direction, symmetrical bundles of radial fibers at the vertices of square cells disrupted the counter-clockwise swirling and bridged the transverse fibers to move centripetally. In square cells, the contractile force, generated by the myosin IIA-enriched transverse fibers, were concentrated and transmitted outwards along the symmetrical bundles of radial fibers, to the extracellular matrix through FAs, and thereby driving FA organization and maturation. The symmetrical radial fiber bundles concentrated the transverse fibers contractility inward to the linkage between the actin cytoskeleton and the nuclear envelope. The tauter cytoskeletal network adjusted the nuclear-actomyosin force balance to cause nuclear deformability and to increase nuclear translocation of the transcription co-activator YAP, which in turn modulated the switch in MSC commitment. Thus, FAs dynamically respond to geometric cues and remodel actin cytoskeletal network to re-distribute intracelluar tension towards the cell nucleus, and thereby controlling YAP mechanotransduction signaling in regulating MSC fate decision. Statement of Significance: We decipher how cellular mechanics is self-organized depending on extracellular geometric features to correlate with mesenchymal stromal cell lineage commitment. In response to geometry constrains on cell morphology, symmetrical radial fiber bundles are assembled and clustered depending on the maturation state of focal adhesions and bridge with the transverse fibers, and thereby establishing the dynamic cytoskeletal network. Contractile force, generated by the myosin-IIA-enriched transverse fibers, is transmitted and dynamically drives the retrograde movement of the actin cytoskeletal network, which appropriately adjusts the nuclear-actomyosin force balance and deforms the cell nucleus for YAP mechano-transduction signaling in regulating mesenchymal stromal cell fate decision.

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Biomaterialia
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Contractile force
  • Focal adhesions
  • Geometric cue
  • Mesenchymal stromal cells
  • Osteogenesis


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