Local 3D matrix confinement determines division axis through cell shape

Lijuan He, Weitong Chen, Pei Hsun Wu, Angela Jimenez, Bin Sheng Wong, Angela San, Konstantinos Konstantopoulos, Denis Wirtz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How the division axis is determined in mammalian cells embedded in three-dimensional (3D) matrices remains elusive, despite that many types of cells divide in 3D environments. Cells on two-dimensional (2D) substrates typically round up completely to divide. Here, we show that in 3D collagen matrices, mammalian cells such as HT1080 human fibrosarcoma and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells exhibit division modes distinct from their Counterparts on 2D substrates, with a markedly higher fraction of cells remaining highly elongated through mitosis in 3D matrices. The long axis of elongated mitotic cells accurately predicts the division axis, independently of matrix density and cell-matrix interactions. This 3D-specific elongated division mode is determined by the local confinement produced by the matrix and the ability of cells to protrude and locally remodel the matrix via ß1 integrin. Elongated division is readily recapitulated using collagen-coated microfabricated channels. Cells depleted of ß1 integrin still divide in the elongated mode in microchannels, suggesting that 3D confinement is sufficient to induce the elongated cell-division phenotype.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6994-7011
Number of pages18
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2016


  • 3D matrix
  • Elongated cell division
  • Long-axis rule
  • Matrix confinement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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