A central aspect of cellular mechanochemical signaling is a change of cytoskeletal tension upon the imposition of exogenous forces. Here we report measurements of the spatiotemporal distribution of mechanical strain in the intermediate filament cytoskeleton of endothelial cells computed from the relative displacement of endogenous green fluorescent protein (GFP)-vimentin before and after onset of shear stress. Quantitative image analysis permitted computation of the principal values and orientations of Lagrangian strain from 3-D high-resolution fluorescence intensity distributions that described intermediate filament positions. Spatially localized peaks in intermediate filament strain were repositioned after onset of shear stress. The orientation of principal strain indicated that mechanical stretching was induced across cell boundaries. This novel approach for intracellular strain mapping using an endogenous reporter demonstrates force transfer from the lumenal surface throughout the cell.
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