Increased asymmetric and multi-daughter cell division in mechanically confined microenvironments

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As the microenvironment of a cell changes, associated mechanical cues may lead to changes in biochemical signaling and inherently mechanical processes such as mitosis. Here we explore the effects of confined mechanical environments on cellular responses during mitosis. Previously, effects of mechanical confinement have been difficult to optically observe in three-dimensional and in vivo systems. To address this challenge, we present a novel microfluidic perfusion culture system that allows controllable variation in the level of confinement in a single axis allowing observation of cell growth and division at the single-cell level. The device is capable of creating precise confinement conditions in the vertical direction varying from high (3 µm) to low (7 µm) confinement while also varying the substrate stiffness (E = 130 kPa and 1 MPa). The Human cervical carcinoma (HeLa) model with a known 3N+ karyotype was used for this study. For this cell line, we observe that mechanically confined cell cycles resulted in stressed cell divisions: (i) delayed mitosis, (ii) multi- daughter mitosis events (from 3 up to 5 daughter cells), (iii) unevenly sized daughter cells, and (iv) induction of cell death. In the highest confined conditions, the frequency of divisions producing more than two progeny was increased an astounding 50-fold from unconfined environments, representing about one half of all successful mitotic events. Notably, the majority of daughter cells resulting from multipolar divisions were viable after cytokinesis and, perhaps suggesting another regulatory checkpoint in the cell cycle, were in some cases observed to re-fuse with neighboring cells post-cytokinesis. The higher instances of abnormal mitosis that we report in confined mechanically stiff spaces, may lead to increased rates of abnormal, viable, cells in the population. This work provides support to a hypothesis that environmental mechanical cues influences structural mechanisms of mitosis such as geometric orientation of the mitotic plane or planes.




Tse, H. T. K., Weaver, W. M., & Carlo, D. (2012). Increased asymmetric and multi-daughter cell division in mechanically confined microenvironments. PLoS ONE, 7(6).

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