BMC systems biology

Membrane related dynamics and the formation of actin in cells growing on micro-topographies: a spatial computational model.

PMID 25200251


Intra-cellular processes of cells at the interface to an implant surface are influenced significantly by their extra-cellular surrounding. Specifically, when growing osteoblasts on titanium surfaces with regular micro-ranged geometry, filaments are shorter, less aligned and they concentrate at the top of the geometric structures. Changes to the cytoskeleton network, i. e., its localization, alignment, orientation, and lengths of the filaments, as well as the overall concentration and distribution of key-actors are induced. For example, integrin is distributed homogeneously, whereas integrin in activated state and vinculin, both components of focal adhesions, have been found clustered on the micro-ranged geometries. Also, the concentration of Rho, an intracellular signaling protein related to focal adhesion regulation, was significantly lower. To explore whether regulations associated with the focal adhesion complex can be responsible for the changed actin filament patterns, a spatial computational model has been developed using ML-Space, a rule-based model description language, and its associated Brownian-motion-based simulator. The focus has been on the deactivation of cofilin in the vicinity of the focal adhesion complex. The results underline the importance of sensing mechanisms to support a clustering of actin filament nucleations on the micro-ranged geometries, and of intracellular diffusion processes, which lead to spatially heterogeneous distributions of active (dephosphorylated) cofilin, which in turn influences the organization of the actin network. We find, for example, that the spatial heterogeneity of key molecular actors can explain the difference in filament lengths in cells on different micro-geometries partly, but to explain the full extent, further model assumptions need to be added and experimentally validated. In particular, our findings and hypothesis referring to the role, distribution, and amount of active cofilin have still to be verified in wet-lab experiments. Letting cells grow on surface structures is a possibility to shed new light on the intricate mechanisms that relate membrane and actin related dynamics in the cell. Our results demonstrate the need for declarative expressive spatial modeling approaches that allow probing different hypotheses, and the central role of the focal adhesion complex not only for nucleating actin filaments, but also for regulating possible severing agents locally.