Tools that allow the application of mechanical forces to cells and tissues or that can quantify the mechanical properties of biological tissues have contributed dramatically to the understanding of basic mechanobiology. These techniques have been extensively used to demonstrate how the onset and progression of various diseases are heavily influenced by mechanical cues. This article presents a multi-functional biaxial stretching (BAXS) platform that can either mechanically stimulate single cells or quantify the mechanical stiffness of tissues. The BAXS platform consists of four voice coil motors that can be controlled independently. Single cells can be cultured on a flexible substrate that can be attached to the motors allowing one to expose the cells to complex, dynamic, and spatially varying strain fields. Conversely, by incorporating a force load cell, one can also quantify the mechanical properties of primary tissues as they are exposed to deformation cycles. In both cases, a proper set of clamps must be designed and mounted to the BAXS platform motors in order to firmly hold the flexible substrate or the tissue of interest. The BAXS platform can be mounted on an inverted microscope to perform simultaneous transmitted light and/or fluorescence imaging to examine the structural or biochemical response of the sample during stretching experiments. This article provides experimental details of the design and usage of the BAXS platform and presents results for single cell and whole tissue studies. The BAXS platform was used to measure the deformation of nuclei in single mouse myoblast cells in response to substrate strain and to measure the stiffness of isolated mouse aortas. The BAXS platform is a versatile tool that can be combined with various optical microscopies in order to provide novel mechanobiological insights at the sub-cellular, cellular and whole tissue levels.
We present gravitational field-flow fractionation and hydrodynamic chromatography of colloids eluting through 18 ?m microchannels. Using video microscopy and mesoscopic simulations, we investigate the average retention ratio of colloids with both a large specific weight and neutral buoyancy. We consider the entire range of colloid sizes, including particles that barely fit in the microchannel and nanoscopic particles. Ideal theory predicts four operational modes, from hydrodynamic chromatography to Faxén-mode field-flow fractionation. We experimentally demonstrate, for the first time, the existence of the Faxén-mode field-flow fractionation and the transition from hydrodynamic chromatography to normal-mode field-flow fractionation. Furthermore, video microscopy and simulations show that the retention ratios are largely reduced above the steric-inversion point, causing the variation of the retention ratio in the steric- and Faxén-mode regimes to be suppressed due to increased drag. We demonstrate that theory can accurately predict retention ratios if hydrodynamic interactions with the microchannel walls (wall drag) are added to the ideal theory. Rather than limiting the applicability, these effects allow the microfluidic channel size to be tuned to ensure high selectivity. Our findings indicate that particle velocimetry methods must account for the wall-induced lag when determining flow rates in highly confining systems.
hMSL2 (male-specific lethal 2, human) is a RING finger protein with ubiquitin ligase activity. Although it has been shown to target histone H2B at lysine 34 and p53 at lysine 351, suggesting roles in transcription regulation and apoptosis, its function in these and other processes remains poorly defined. To further characterize this protein, we have disrupted the Msl2 gene in chicken DT40 cells. Msl2(-/-) cells are viable, with minor growth defects. Biochemical analysis of the chromatin in these cells revealed aberrations in the levels of several histone modifications involved in DNA damage response pathways. DNA repair assays show that both Msl2(-/-) chicken cells and hMSL2-depleted human cells have defects in non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) repair. DNA damage assays also demonstrate that both Msl2 and hMSL2 proteins are modified and stabilized shortly after induction of DNA damage. Moreover, hMSL2 mediates modification, presumably ubiquitylation, of a key DNA repair mediator 53BP1 at lysine 1690. Similarly, hMSL1 and hMOF (males absent on the first) are modified in the presence of hMSL2 shortly after DNA damage. These data identify a novel role for Msl2/hMSL2 in the cellular response to DNA damage. The kinetics of its stabilization suggests a function early in the NHEJ repair pathway. Moreover, Msl2 plays a role in maintaining normal histone modification profiles, which may also contribute to the DNA damage response.
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