Mechanical forces play an increasingly recognized role in modulating cell function. This report demonstrates mechanosensing by T cells, using polyacrylamide gels presenting ligands to CD3 and CD28. Naive CD4 T cells exhibited stronger activation, as measured by attachment and secretion of IL-2, with increasing substrate elastic modulus over the range of 10-200 kPa. By presenting these ligands on different surfaces, this report further demonstrates that mechanosensing is more strongly associated with CD3 rather than CD28 signaling. Finally, phospho-specific staining for Zap70 and Src family kinase proteins suggests that sensing of substrate rigidity occurs at least in part by processes downstream of T-cell receptor activation. The ability of T cells to quantitatively respond to substrate rigidly provides an intriguing new model for mechanobiology.
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