Part II: Fibroblasts preferentially migrate in the direction of principal strain.
A growing body of evidence suggests that the sensory information from the cytoskeleton and integrins may be responsible for guiding migration during mechano- and haptotaxis. However, the dual function of these subcellular structures as mechano-sensors and -actuators is only partially understood. Using a new cell chamber described in the preceding companion paper (Ref to part I, Raeber et al. 2007a) we investigated the migration response of adhesion-dependent fibroblasts embedded 3-dimensionally within synthetic protease-sensitive poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogels to stepwise and cyclic mechanical loads. To that end, we developed a spatially and temporally resolved migration analysis technique capable of providing estimates of statistical cell migration parameters along and perpendicular to the main strain direction. Fibroblasts reoriented themselves in the direction of principal strain, increased their proteolytic migration activity and moved preferentially parallel to the principal strain axis. These results point to a possible correlation between planes of iso-strain and migration direction.