Osteocytes respond to dynamic fluid shear loading by activating various biochemical pathways, mediating a dynamic process of bone formation and resorption. Whole-cell deformation and regional deformation of the cytoskeleton may be able to directly regulate this process. Attempts to image cellular deformation by conventional microscopy techniques have been hindered by low temporal or spatial resolution. In this study, we developed a quasi-three-dimensional microscopy technique that enabled us to simultaneously visualize an osteocyte's traditional bottom-view profile and a side-view profile at high temporal resolution. Quantitative analysis of the plasma membrane and either the intracellular actin or microtubule (MT) cytoskeletal networks provided characterization of their deformations over time. Although no volumetric dilatation of the whole cell was observed under flow, both the actin and MT networks experienced primarily tensile strains in all measured strain components. Regional heterogeneity in the strain field of normal strains was observed in the actin networks, especially in the leading edge to flow, but not in the MT networks. In contrast, side-view shear strains exhibited similar subcellular distribution patterns in both networks. Disruption of MT networks caused actin normal strains to decrease, whereas actin disruption had little effect on the MT network strains, highlighting the networks' mechanical interactions in osteocytes.
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