Maxx Swoger: 0000-0001-6128-8704

Sarthak Gupta: 0000-0002-3950-7955

Alison E. Patteson: 0000-0002-4004-1734

Heidi Henley: 0000-0001-6660-5254

Document Type



Winter 1-7-2022


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




National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health

Funding ID

NSF MCB 2032861 and NIH R35 GM142963


We acknowledge useful discussions with Jennifer Schwarz, Vivek Shenoy, Farid Alisafaei, Bobby Carroll, and Paul Janmey. We thank Sumon Sahu and Jennifer Ross for access and assistance with confocal imaging. This work was supported by NSF MCB 2032861 and NIH R35 GM142963 awarded to A.E.P.

Official Citation

Swoger M, Gupta S, Charrier EE, Bates M, Hehnly H, Patteson AE. Vimentin Intermediate Filaments Mediate Cell Morphology on Viscoelastic Substrates. ACS Appl Bio Mater. 2022 Feb 21;5(2):552-561. doi: 10.1021/acsabm.1c01046. Epub 2022 Jan 7. PMID: 34995457; PMCID: PMC8864613.




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.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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