Vimentin Intermediate Filaments Mediate Cell Morphology on Viscoelastic Substrates

Maxx Swoger, Sarthak Gupta, Elisabeth E. Charrier, Michael Bates, Heidi Hehnly, Alison E. Patteson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The ability of cells to take and change shape is a fundamental feature underlying development, wound repair, and tissue maintenance. Central to this process is physical and signaling interactions between the three cytoskeletal polymeric networks: F-actin, microtubules, and intermediate filaments (IFs). Vimentin is an IF protein that is essential to the mechanical resilience of cells and regulates cross-talk among the cytoskeleton, but its role in how cells sense and respond to the surrounding extracellular matrix is largely unclear. To investigate vimentin’s role in substrate sensing, we designed polyacrylamide hydrogels that mimic the elastic and viscoelastic nature of in vivo tissues. Using wild-type and vimentin-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts, we show that vimentin enhances cell spreading on viscoelastic substrates, even though it has little effect in the limit of purely elastic substrates. Our results provide compelling evidence that vimentin modulates how cells sense and respond to their environment and thus plays a key role in cell mechanosensing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)552-561
Number of pages10
JournalACS Applied Bio Materials
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 21 2022


  • biomaterials
  • cell adhesion
  • cell spreading
  • cells
  • cytoskeleton
  • hydrogels
  • vimentin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biochemistry, medical


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