The Effect of Cell Morphology on the Permeability of the Nuclear Envelope to Diffusive Factors

Author (s): García-González, A., Jacchetti, E., Marotta, R., Tunesi,M. Rodríguez Matas, J.F. and Raimondi, M.T.
Journal: Frontiers in Physiology – Computational Physiology and Medicine

Volume: 9
Date: 2018

A recent advance in understanding stem cell differentiation is that the cell is able to translate its morphology, i.e., roundish or spread, into a fate decision. We hypothesize that strain states in the nuclear envelope (NE) cause changes in the structure of the nuclear pore complexes. This induces significant changes in the NE’s permeability to the traffic of the transcription factors involved in stem cell differentiation which are imported into the nucleus by passive diffusion. To demonstrate this, we set up a numerical model of the transport of diffusive molecules through the nuclear pore complex (NPC), on the basis of the NPC deformation. We then compared the prediction of the model for two different cell configurations with roundish and spread nuclear topologies with those measured on cells cultured in both configurations. To measure the geometrical features of the NPC, using electron tomography we reconstructed three-dimensional portions of the envelope of cells cultured in both configurations. We found non-significant differences in both the shape and size of the transmembrane ring of single pores with envelope deformation. In the numerical model, we thus assumed that the changes in pore complex permeability, caused by the envelope strains, are due to variations in the opening configuration of the nuclear basket, which in turn modifies the porosity of the pore complex mainly on its nuclear side. To validate the model, we cultured cells on a substrate shaped as a spatial micro-grid, called the “nichoid,” which is nanoengineered by two-photon laser polymerization, and induces a roundish nuclear configuration in cells adhering to the nichoid grid, and a spread configuration in cells adhering to the flat substrate surrounding the grid. We then measured the diffusion through the nuclear envelope of an inert green-fluorescent protein, by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP). Finally, we compared the diffusion times predicted by the numerical model for roundish vs. spread cells, with the measured times. Our data show that cell stretching modulates the characteristic time needed for the nuclear import of a small inert molecule, GFP, and the model predicts a faster import of diffusive molecules in the spread compared to roundish cells.



  title={The Effect of Cell Morphology on the Permeability of the Nuclear Envelope to Diffusive Factors},
  author={Garc{\'\i}a-Gonz{\'a}lez, Alberto and Jacchetti, Emanuela and Marotta, Roberto and Tunesi, Marta and Rodr{\'\i}guez Matas, Jos{\'e} F{\'e}lix and Raimondi, Manuela Teresa},
  journal={Frontiers in Physiology},