Study Cell Mechanobiology with Molecular Tension Sensor

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Date/Time:Monday, 30 Sep 2019 from 4:10 pm to 5:00 pm
Location:Phys 0005
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Dr. Xuefeng Wang, Iowa State University

Force is essential for the life of cells. Integrin-transmitted cellular force (integrin tension) at the cell-matrix interface mechanically drives short-term cellular functions such as cell adhesion, contraction and migration. In long term, cellular force is also transduced to biochemical signals to regulate cell proliferation, differentiation, cancer cell metastasis, etc. However, the study of cellular force has been challenging because cellular force is minuscule and invisible, making it difficult to calibrate or visualize the force. We developed integrative tension sensor (ITS) which converts molecular tension to fluorescent signal, enabling cellular force mapping directly by fluorescence imaging with high resolution and sensitivity. Using ITS, we calibrated and mapped integrin tension in platelets, keratocytes and cancer cells with piconewton (pN) sensitivity and 0.4 m resolution. Based on these cell models, we studied the biomechanical role of integrin tension in cell adhesion, contraction and migration. The method and experiment paradigm developed by us offers a new avenue for the study of cell mechanobiology.

Xuefeng Wang is an assistant professor in Biophysics at Iowa State University (ISU), where his lab studies cell mechanobiology with molecular tension sensors that visualize and map cellular forces by fluorescence. Before joining ISU, Xuefeng obtained Ph.D. in physics at Purdue University and had postdoctoral training at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There he received training in optics, biophysics and single molecule imaging. In past research, he invented picometrology which calibrates ultrathin film with picometer sensitivity. He also developed tension gauge tether, a linker that quantitatively and globally knocks down molecular tensions transmitted by mechanosensitive receptors on cell membrane. Lately his lab developed a series of molecular tension sensors to study cellular forces.