Compressive forces stabilise microtubules in living cells

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Cell mechano-sensation and adaptation are supported by the actin network. The microtubule network is not considered to be directly sensitive to mechanical forces acting on a cell. However, recent studies on isolated microtubules in vitro have shown that bending forces have an impact on their structure, composition and lifespan, suggesting that, in a cellular context, microtubules may react to mechanical forces. We tested this hypothesis in living cells by subjecting them to cycles of compressive forces and found that microtubules became distorted, less dynamic and more stable. This mechano-stabilisation depends on CLASP2, which relocates from the end to the deformed shaft of microtubules. These results demonstrate that microtubules in living cells have mechano-responsive properties that allow them to resist and even counteract the forces to which they are subjected.

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