Axons span extreme distances and are subjected to significant stretch deformations during limb movements or sudden head movements, especially during impacts. Yet, axon biomechanics, and its relation to the ultrastructure that allows axons to withstand mechanical stress, is poorly understood. Using a custom developed force apparatus, we demonstrate that chick dorsal root ganglion axons exhibit a tension buffering or strain-softening response, where its steady state elastic modulus decreases with increasing strain. We then explore the contributions from the various cytoskeletal components of the axon to show that the recently discovered membrane-associated actin-spectrin scaffold plays a prominent mechanical role. Finally, using a theoretical model, we argue that the actin-spectrin skeleton acts as an axonal tension buffer by reversibly unfolding repeat domains of the spectrin tetramers to release excess mechanical stress. Our results revise the current view point that microtubules and their associated proteins are the only significant load-bearing elements in axons.
All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files.
- Pramod Pullarkat
- Aurnab Ghose
- Aurnab Ghose
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Pierre Sens, Institut Curie, PSL Research University, CNRS, France
© 2020, Dubey et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Little is known about how muscle length affects residual force enhancement (rFE) in humans. We therefore investigated rFE at short, long, and very long muscle lengths within the human quadriceps and patellar tendon (PT) using conventional dynamometry with motion capture (rFETQ) and a new, non-invasive shear-wave tensiometry technique (rFEWS). Eleven healthy male participants performed submaximal (50% max.) EMG-matched fixed-end reference and stretch-hold contractions across these muscle lengths while muscle fascicle length changes of the vastus lateralis (VL) were captured using B-mode ultrasound. We found significant rFETQ at long (7±5%) and very long (12±8%), but not short (2±5%) muscle lengths, whereas rFEWS was only significant at the very long (38±27%), but not short (8±12%) or long (6±10%) muscle lengths. We also found significant relationships between VL fascicle length and rFETQ (r=0.63, p=.001) and rFEWS (r=0.52, p=.017), but relationships were not significant between VL fascicle stretch amplitude and rFETQ (r=0.33, p=.126) or rFEWS (r=0.29, p=.201). PT shear-wave speed-angle relationships did not agree with estimated PT force-angle relationships, which indicates that estimating PT loads from shear-wave tensiometry might be inaccurate. We conclude that increasing muscle length rather than stretch amplitude contributes more to rFE during submaximal voluntary contractions of the human quadriceps.
In addition to diffusive signals, cells in tissue also communicate via long, thin cellular protrusions, such as airinemes in zebrafish. Before establishing communication, cellular protrusions must find their target cell. Here, we demonstrate that the shapes of airinemes in zebrafish are consistent with a finite persistent random walk model. The probability of contacting the target cell is maximized for a balance between ballistic search (straight) and diffusive search (highly curved, random). We find that the curvature of airinemes in zebrafish, extracted from live-cell microscopy, is approximately the same value as the optimum in the simple persistent random walk model. We also explore the ability of the target cell to infer direction of the airineme’s source, finding that there is a theoretical trade-off between search optimality and directional information. This provides a framework to characterize the shape, and performance objectives, of non-canonical cellular protrusions in general.