Author(s): Harris AK, Pryer NK, Paydarfar D, Harris AK, Pryer NK, Paydarfar D
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Abstract We used silicone rubber substrata and fluorescent staining of cytoskeletal components to study the mechanisms by which electrical voltage gradients cause reorientation of embryonic chick fibroblasts in tissue culture. No evidence was found for a direct stimulation of cell contractility, either parallel or perpendicular to the voltage gradient. Instead, there was a gradual weakening in cell contractility in the axis parallel to this gradient, accompanied by progressive retraction of lamellae oriented along this axis, apparently due to selective weakening of cell-substratum adhesions. The cells then elongated perpendicular to the electric field, and strengthened their contractility in that axis. Fluorescence microscopy showed that cytoplasmic actin stress fibers and microtubules oriented perpendicular to the imposed voltage gradient. Many more cases were observed in which cell morphology had reoriented, but the actin fibers had not, as compared to the converse (cytoskeleton oriented, but no morphology). This disparity further supports the interpretation that the redirection of cell contractility is a consequence of morphological reorientation, rather than its cause. We also studied the effects of reversing the polarity of the electric fields at constant intervals (of as long as 1 minute). Fibroblasts failed to orient in response to such alternating fields, even after long exposure, but these same cells did reorient in response to pulsed currents in a consistent direction separated by "rest periods" (with no current). This combination of results is more consistent with an electrophoretic mechanism than with one depending on voltage-induced changes in membrane permeabilities.
This article was published in J Exp Zool
and referenced in Biological Systems: Open Access