Microorganisms swimming through viscous fluids imprint their propulsion mechanisms in the flow fields they generate. Extreme confinement of these swimmers between rigid boundaries often arises in natural and technological contexts, yet measurements of their mechanics in this regime are absent. Here, we show that strongly confining the microalga Chlamydomonas between two parallel plates not only inhibits its motility through contact friction with the walls but also leads, for purely mechanical reasons, to inversion of the surrounding vortex flows. Insights from the experiment lead to a simplified theoretical description of flow fields based on a quasi-2D Brinkman approximation to the Stokes equation rather than the usual method of images. We argue that this vortex flow inversion provides the advantage of enhanced fluid mixing despite higher friction. Overall, our results offer a comprehensive framework for analyzing the collective flows of strongly confined swimmers.
All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files. Separate source data files containing source data for each subfigure have been provided. A source code file containing the custom-written MATLAB codes has also been provided.
- Prerna Sharma
- Sriram Ramaswamy
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Raymond E Goldstein, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
© 2021, Mondal 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.
As cells migrate and experience forces from their surroundings, they constantly undergo mechanical deformations which reshape their plasma membrane (PM). To maintain homeostasis, cells need to detect and restore such changes, not only in terms of overall PM area and tension as previously described, but also in terms of local, nano-scale topography. Here we describe a novel phenomenon, by which cells sense and restore mechanically induced PM nano-scale deformations. We show that cell stretch and subsequent compression reshape the PM in a way that generates local membrane evaginations in the 100 nm scale. These evaginations are recognized by I-BAR proteins, which triggers a burst of actin polymerization mediated by Rac1 and Arp2/3. The actin polymerization burst subsequently re-flattens the evagination, completing the mechanochemical feedback loop. Our results demonstrate a new mechanosensing mechanism for PM shape homeostasis, with potential applicability in different physiological scenarios.
Cell-generated forces play a major role in coordinating the large-scale behavior of cell assemblies, in particular during development, wound healing, and cancer. Mechanical signals propagate faster than biochemical signals, but can have similar effects, especially in epithelial tissues with strong cell–cell adhesion. However, a quantitative description of the transmission chain from force generation in a sender cell, force propagation across cell–cell boundaries, and the concomitant response of receiver cells is missing. For a quantitative analysis of this important situation, here we propose a minimal model system of two epithelial cells on an H-pattern (‘cell doublet’). After optogenetically activating RhoA, a major regulator of cell contractility, in the sender cell, we measure the mechanical response of the receiver cell by traction force and monolayer stress microscopies. In general, we find that the receiver cells show an active response so that the cell doublet forms a coherent unit. However, force propagation and response of the receiver cell also strongly depend on the mechano-structural polarization in the cell assembly, which is controlled by cell–matrix adhesion to the adhesive micropattern. We find that the response of the receiver cell is stronger when the mechano-structural polarization axis is oriented perpendicular to the direction of force propagation, reminiscent of the Poisson effect in passive materials. We finally show that the same effects are at work in small tissues. Our work demonstrates that cellular organization and active mechanical response of a tissue are key to maintain signal strength and lead to the emergence of elasticity, which means that signals are not dissipated like in a viscous system, but can propagate over large distances.