Rat airway smooth muscle cell during actin modulation: Rheology and glassy dynamics

Rachel E. Laudadio, Emil J. Millet, Ben Fabry, Steven S. An, James P. Butler, Jeffrey J. Fredberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Although changes of cytoskeleton (CSK) stiffness and friction can be induced by diverse interventions, all mechanical changes reported to date can be scaled onto master relationships that appear to be universal. To assess the limits of the applicability of those master relationships, we focused in the present study on actin and used a panel of actin-manipulating drugs that is much wider than any used previously. We focused on the cultured rat airway smooth muscle (ASM) cell as a model system. Cells were treated with agents that directly modulate the polymerization (jasplakinolide, cytochalasin D, and latrunculin A), branching (genistein), and cross linking (phallacidin and phalloidin oleate) of the actin lattice. Contractile (serotonin, 5-HT) and relaxing (dibutyryl adenosine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate, DBcAMP) agonists and a myosin inhibitor (ML-7) were also tested for comparison, because these agents may change the structure of actin indirectly. Using optical magnetic twisting cytometry, we measured elastic and frictional moduli before and after treatment with each agent. Stiffness increased with frequency as a weak power law, and changes of friction paralleled those of stiffness until they approached a Newtonian viscous limit. Despite large differences in the mechanism of action among the interventions, all data collapsed onto master curves that depended on a single parameter. In the context of soft glassy systems, that parameter would correspond to an effective temperature of the cytoskeletal matrix and reflect the effects of molecular crowding and associated molecular trapping. These master relationships demonstrate that when the mechanical properties of the cell change, they are constrained to do so along a special trajectory. Because mechanical characteristics of the cell shadow underlying molecular events, these results imply special constraints on the protein-protein interactions that dominate CSK mechanical properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C1388-C1395
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number6 58-6
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


  • Glass
  • Scale-free
  • Structural damping


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