Cell stiffness, contractile stress and the role of extracellular matrix

Steven S. An, Jina Kim, Kwangmi Ahn, Xavier Trepat, Kenneth J. Drake, Sarvesh Kumar, Guoyu Ling, Carolyn Purington, Tirumalai Rangasamy, Thomas W. Kensler, Wayne Mitzner, Jeffrey J. Fredberg, Shyam Biswal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Here we have assessed the effects of extracellular matrix (ECM) composition and rigidity on mechanical properties of the human airway smooth muscle (ASM) cell. Cell stiffness and contractile stress showed appreciable changes from the most relaxed state to the most contracted state: we refer to the maximal range of these changes as the cell contractile scope. The contractile scope was least when the cell was adherent upon collagen V, followed by collagen IV, laminin, and collagen I, and greatest for fibronectin. Regardless of ECM composition, upon adherence to increasingly rigid substrates, the ASM cell positively regulated expression of antioxidant genes in the glutathione pathway and heme oxygenase, and disruption of a redox-sensitive transcription factor, nuclear erythroid 2 p45-related factor (Nrf2), culminated in greater contractile scope. These findings provide biophysical evidence that ECM differentially modulates muscle contractility and, for the first time, demonstrate a link between muscle contractility and Nrf2-directed responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-703
Number of pages7
JournalBiochemical and Biophysical Research Communications
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 15 2009


  • Airway hyperreactivity
  • Airway smooth muscle
  • Asthma
  • ECM
  • Nrf2
  • Oxidative stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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