Microbuckling of fibrous matrices enables long range cell mechanosensing

Brian Burkel, Ayelet Lesman, Phoebus Rosakis, David A. Tirrell, Guruswami Ravichandran, Jacob Notbohm*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


When biological cells migrate, divide, and invade, they push and pull on individual fibers of the matrix surrounding them. The resulting fiber displacements are neither uniform nor smooth; rather, displacements localize to form dense fibrous bands that span from one cell to another. It is thought that these bands may be a mechanism by which cells can sense their neighbors, but this hypothesis remains untested, because the mechanism for band formation remains unknown. Using digital volume correlation, we measure the displacements induced by contractile cells embedded in a fibrous matrix. We find that cell-induced displacements propagate over a longer range than predicted by linear elasticity. To explain the long-range propagation of displacements, we consider the effect of buckling of individual matrix fibers, which generates a nonlinear stress-strain relationship. We show that fiber buckling is the mechanism that causes the displacements to propagate over a long range and the bands to form between nearby cells. The results thus show that buckling of individual fibers provides a mechanism by which cells may sense their distant neighbors mechanically.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMechanics of Biological Systems and Materials - Proceedings of the 2016 Annual Conference on Experimental and Applied Mechanics
EditorsChad S. Korach, Srinivasan Arjun Tekalur, Pablo Zavattieri
PublisherSpringer New York LLC
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9783319413501
StatePublished - 2017
EventAnnual Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics, 2016 - Orlando, United States
Duration: 6 Jun 20169 Jun 2016

Publication series

NameConference Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Mechanics Series
ISSN (Print)2191-5644
ISSN (Electronic)2191-5652


ConferenceAnnual Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics, 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States


FundersFunder number
Rothschild Foundation
National Science Foundation0520565, 1206121
California Institute for Regenerative MedicineDGE-1144469, RB5-07398


    • DVC
    • Extracellular matrix
    • Fiber buckling
    • Mechanosensing
    • Traction force microscopy


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