Neurites of PC12 and chick dorsal root ganglion neurons behave as viscoelastic solids in response to applied forces. This passive behavior can be modeled with three mechanical elements; a relatively stiff, undamped spring in series with a Voight element composed of a less stiff spring in parallel with a dashpot. In response to applied tensions greater than 100 microdynes, PC12 cells show lengthening behavior distinct from and in addition to the passive viscoelastic response. We interpret this as "towed growth" (Bray, D. 1984. Dev. Biol. 102:379-389) because the neurites can become twice as long without obvious thinning of the neurite and because in two cases neurite tensions fell below original rest tensions, a result that cannot be obtained with passive viscoelastic elements. The rate of towed growth showed a linear dependence of growth rate with applied tensions in 8 of 12 PC12 neurites exposed to applied tension greater than 100 microdynes. Both PC12 and chick sensory neurons showed evidence of retraction when neurite tensions were suddenly diminished. This response was measured as tension recovery after slackening in chick sensory neurites. In 62% of the cases, tension recovery exceeded and sometimes doubled the preexperimental steady-state tension. Our data indicate that this response is active tension generation by the neurite shaft. We conclude that neurite length is regulated by axial tension in both elongation and retraction. Our data suggest a three-way controller: above some tension set point, the neurite is stimulated to elongate. Below some different, lower tension threshold the neurite is stimulated to retract. Between these two tension thresholds, the neurite responds passively as a viscoelastic solid.
There is controversy over whether axonal elongation is the result of a pulling growth cone and the role of tension in axonal elongation. Earlier in this decade, the consensus was that axons or neurites elongated from tension generated by forward motility of the growth cone. It was presumed that contractile filopodia were the source of the tension moving the growth cone. But this view was challenged by experiments showing that neurites elongate, albeit abnormally, in the presence of cytochalasin, which inhibits growth-cone and filopodial movements. Additionally, high resolution, video-enhanced observations of growth-cone activity argued against filopodial shortening as a source of tension, suggesting instead that an extrusion of cytoplasm rather than a pulling process, is the key event in neurite elongation. Studies of slow axonal transport, however, indicate that much slower cytoskeletal pushing underlies axonal elongation. We report here direct measurements of neurite force as a function of growth-cone advance which show that they are linearly related and accompanied by apparent neurite growth. No increase in force occurs in neurites whose growth cone fails to advance.
Abstract. We assessed the mechanical properties of PC-12 neurites by applying a force with calibrated glass needles and measured resulting changes in neurite length and deflection of the needle. We observed a linear relationship between force and length change that was not affected by multiple distensions and were thus able to determine neurite spring constants and initial, nondistended, rest tensions. 81 out of 82 neurites showed positive rest tensions ranging over three orders of magnitude with most values clustering around 30-40 lxdynes. Treatment with cytochalasin D significantly reduced neurite rest tensions to an average compression equal to 14% of the former tension and spring constants to an average of 17 % of resting values. Treatment with nocodazole increased neurite rest tensions to an average of 282 % of resting values but produced no change in spring constant. These observations suggest a particular type of complementary force interaction underlying axonal shape; the neurite actin network under tension and neurite microtubules under compression. Thermodynamics suggests that microtubule (MT) assembly may be regulated by changes in compressive load. We tested this effect by releasing neurite attachment to a polylysine-coated surface with polyaspartate, thus shifting external compressive support onto internal elements, and measuring the relative change in MT polymerization using quantitative Western blotting. Neurons grown on polylysine or collagen without further treatment had a 1:2 ratio of soluble to polymerized tubulin. When neurites grown on polylysine were treated with 1% polyaspartate for 15-30 min, 80% of neurites retracted, shifting the soluble: polymerized tubulin ratio to 1:1. Polyaspartate treatment of cells grown on collagen, or grown on polylysine but treated with cytochalasin to reduce tension, caused neither retraction nor a change in the soluble:polymerized tubulin ratio. We suggest that the release of adhesion to the dish shifted the compressive load formerly borne by the dish onto MTs causing their partial depolymerization. Our observations are consistent with the possibility that alterations in MT compression during growth cone advance integrates MT assembly with the advance.INCE the pioneering studies of Yamada et al. (59), many investigators have found a clear cut "division of labor" in the role of the cytoskeleton in growth cone motility and axonal elongation. Anti-microtubule (MT) I drugs cause neurites to collapse but have no effect on growth cone motility functions, e.g. ruffling, microspike activity, etc. (8,17,24,30,31,49). Conversely, anti-actin drugs inhibit growth cone motility functions but neurites remain extended (8,24,31,49). Further, drugs that disrupt the actin network stabilize the neurite to retraction, while drugs that disrupt MTs cause retraction. Also, drugs that augment actin assembly cause retraction while drugs that augment MT assembly stabilize neurites to retraction and sometimes cause extension (15,31,35,49). Similarly, the networks move at different rate...
Neurites of chick sensory neurons in culture were attached by their growth cones to glass needles of known compliance and were subjected to increasing tensions as steps of constant force; each step lasted 30-60 min and was 25-50 mu dyn greater than the previous step. After correcting for elastic stretching, neurite elongation rate increased in proportion to tension magnitude greater than a tension threshold. The value of the tension threshold required for growth varied between 25 and 560 mu dyn, with most between 50 and 150 mu dyn. The growth sensitivity of neurites to tension was surprisingly high: an increase in tension of 1 mu dyn increased the elongation rate an average of about 1.5 microns/hr. The linear relationship between growth rate and tension provides a simple control mechanism for axons to accommodate tissue expansion in growing animals that consistently maintains a moderate rest tension on axons. Styrene microspheres treated with polyethyleneimine were used to label the surface of neurites in order to determine the site and pattern of surface addition during the experimental "towed growth" regime. New membrane is added interstitially throughout the neurite, but different regions of neurite vary widely in the amount of new membrane added. This contrasts with membrane addition specifically at the distal end in growth-cone-mediated growth. The different sites for membrane addition in growth mediated by towing and by the growth cone indicate that the membrane addition process is sensitive to the mode of growth. We confirmed the finding of Bray (1984) that neurites can be initiated de novo by application of tension to the cell margin of chick sensory neurons.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)
Cytoskeletal proteins tagged with green fluorescent protein were used to directly visualize the mechanical role of the cytoskeleton in determining cell shape. Rat embryo (REF 52) fibroblasts were deformed using glass needles either uncoated for purely physical manipulations, or coated with laminin to induce attachment to the cell surface. Cells responded to uncoated probes in accordance with a three-layer model in which a highly elastic nucleus is surrounded by cytoplasmic microtubules that behave as a jelly-like viscoelastic fluid. The third, outermost cortical layer is an elastic shell under sustained tension. Adhesive, laminin-coated needles caused focal recruitment of actin filaments to the contacted surface region and increased the cortical layer stiffness. This direct visualization of actin recruitment confirms a widely postulated model for mechanical connections between extracellular matrix proteins and the actin cytoskeleton. Cells tethered to laminin-treated needles strongly resisted elongation by actively contracting. Whether using uncoated probes to apply simple deformations or laminin-coated probes to induce surface-to-cytoskeleton interaction we observed that experimentally applied forces produced exclusively local responses by both the actin and microtubule cytoskeleton. This local accomodation and dissipation of force is inconsistent with the proposal that cellular tensegrity determines cell shape.
Here we asked whether applied mechanical tension would stimulate undifferentiated minor processes of cultured hippocampal neurons to become axons and whether tension could induce a second axon in an already polarized neuron. Experimental tension applied to minor processes produced extensions that demonstrated axonal character, regardless of the presence of an existing axon. Towed neurites showed a high rate of spontaneous growth cone advance and could continue to grow out for 1–3 d after towing. The developmental course of experimental neurites was found to be similar to that of unmanipulated spontaneous axons. Furthermore, the experimentally elongated neurites showed compartmentation of the axonal markers dephospho-tau and L-1 in towed outgrowth after 24 h. Extension of a second axon from an already polarized neuron does not lead to the loss of the spontaneous axon either immediately or after longer term growth. In addition, we were able to initiate neurites de novo that subsequently acquired axonal character even though spontaneous growth cone advance began while the towed neurite was still no longer than its sibling processes. This suggests that tension rather than the achievement of a critical neurite length determined axonal specification.
We report in this article that the retraction of PC 12 neurites, unlike that of other cultured neurons, is due to tension within the neurite. Retraction is rapid and independent of metabolic energy. Transection of one arm of a branched neurite immediately causes the remaining arm to take up a new equilibrium position between attachment points. Similarly, detachment of one growth cone of a cell causes the cell body to move to a new equilibrium position between the remaining neurites. These observations provide direct evidence for the suspension of the cell soma among a network of tensioned neurites. We used retraction as an assay for neurite tension to examine the role of actin filaments and microtubules in neurite support and elongation. Our data suggest that microtubules (MTs) within PC 12 neurites are under compression, supporting tension within the actin network. Treatment of cells with drugs that disrupt actin networks, cytochalasin D or erythro-9-[3-(2-hydroxynonyl)]adenosine eliminates retraction regardless of the absence of MTs, lack of adhesion to the substratum, or integrity of the neurite. Conversely, stimulation of actin polymerization by injection of phalloidin causes retraction of neurites. Treatments that depolymerize MTs, nocodazole or cold, cause retraction of neurites, which suggests that microtubules support this tension, i.e., are under compression. Stabilization of MTs with taxol stabilizes neurites to retraction and under appropriate circumstances can drive neurite extension. Taxol-stimulated neurite extension is augmented by combined treatment with anti-actin drugs. This is consistent with the actin network's normally exerting a force opposite that of MT assembly. Cytochalasin and erythro-9-[3-(2-hydroxynonyl)] adenosine were found to increase slightly the dose of nocodazole required for MT depolymerization. This is consistent with the postulated balance of forces and also suggests that alteration of the compression borne by the microtubules could serve as a local regulator for MT polymerization during neurite outgrowth.There is general agreement that axonal growth is intimately dependent upon the assembly and spatial organization of the neuronal cytoskeleton (3,16). Despite this agreement, the role of the cytoskeletal elements in axonal growth is poorly understood. The mechanism for integrating the polymerization of actin and microtubules (MTs) ~ is completely unknown. However, several different lines of evidence point to a local, i.e. controlled within the axon, mechanism for the integration of cytoskeletal assembly with axonal growth: axons and neurites severed from the cell body can regrow (18,24,28); new growth cones appear on the normally quiescent sides of neurites in response to MT depolymerization (4, 28); neurite outgrowth can be guided by local changes in substratum adhesiveness (17); and isolated neurites or growth cones can respond to a gradient of nerve growth factor (NGF) (6, 23).We recently reported that rate and extent of neurite outgrowth of PC 12 rat pheochromocy...
Abstract. The growth cone must push its substrate rearward via some traction force in order to propel itself forward. To determine which growth cone behaviors produce traction force, we observed chick sensory growth cones under conditions in which force production was accommodated by movement of obstacles in the environment, namely, neurites of other sensory neurons or glass fibers. The movements of these obstacles occurred via three, different, stereotyped growth cone behaviors: (a) filopodial contractions, (b) smooth rearward movement on the dorsal surface of the growth cone, and (c) interactions with ruffling lamellipodia. More than 70% of the obstacle movements were caused by filopodial contractions in which the obstacle attached at the extreme distal end of a filopodium and moved only as the filopodium changed its extension. Filopodial contractions were characterized by frequent changes of obstacle velocity and direction. Contraction of a single filopodium is estimated to exert 50-90/~dyn of force, which can account for the pull exerted by chick sensory growth cones. Importantly, all five cases of growth cones growing over the top of obstacle neurites (i.e., geometry that mimics the usual growth cone/substrate interaction), were of the filopodial contraction type. Some 25 % of obstacle movements occurred by a smooth backward movement along the top surface of growth cones. Both the appearance and rate of movements were similar to that reported for retrograde flow of cortical actin near the dorsal growth cone surface. Although these retrograde flow movements also exerted enough force to account for growth cone pulling, we did not observe such movements on ventral growth cone surfaces. Occasionally obstacles were moved by interaction with ruffling lamellipodia. However, we obtained no evidence for attachment of the obstacles to ruffling lamellipodia or for directed obstacle movements by this mechanism. These data suggest that chick sensory growth cones move forward by contractile activity of filopodia, i.e., isometric contraction on a rigid substrate. Our data argue against retrograde flow of actin producing traction force.
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