Stem cell mechanical behaviour modelling: substrate's curvature influence during adhesion

  • Vassaux M.
  • Milan Jean-Louis


Recent experiments hint that adherent cells are sensitive to their substrate curvature. It is already well known that cells behaviour can be regulated by the mechanical properties of their environment. However, no mechanisms have been established regarding the influence of cell-scale curvature of the substrate. Using a numerical cell model, based on tensegrity structures theory and the non-smooth contact dynamics method, we propose to investigate the mechanical state of adherent cells on concave and convex hemispheres. Our mechanical cell model features a geometrical description of intracellular components, including the cell membrane, the focal adhesions, the cytoskeleton filament networks, the stress fibres, the microtubules, the nucleus membrane and the nucleoskeleton. The cell model has enabled us to analyse the evolution of the mechanical behaviour of intracellular components with varying curvature radii and with the removal of part of these components. We have observed the influence of the convexity of the substrate on the cell shape, the cytoskeletal force networks as well as on the nucleus strains. The more convex the substrate, the more tensed the stress fibres and the cell membrane, the more compressed the cytosol and the microtubules, leading to a stiffer cell. Furthermore, the more concave the substrate, the more stable and rounder the nucleus. These findings achieved using a verified virtual testing methodology, in particular regarding the nucleus stability, might be of significant importance with respect to the division and differentiation of mesenchymal stem cells. These results can also bring some hindsights on cell migration on curved substrates.