Mechanical tension modulates local and global vesicle dynamics in neurons

W. W. Ahmed, T. C. Li, S. S. Rubakhin, A. Chiba, J. V. Sweedler, T. A. Saif

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Growing experimental evidence suggests that mechanical tension plays a significant role in determining the growth, guidance, and function of neurons. Mechanical tension in axons contributes to neurotransmitter clustering at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction (NMJ) and is actively regulated by neurons both in vitro and in vivo. In this work, we applied mechanical strain on in vivo Drosophila neurons and in vitro Aplysia neurons and studied their vesicle dynamics by live-imaging. Our experiments show that mechanical stretch modulates the dynamics of vesicles in two different model systems: (1) The global accumulation of synaptic vesicles (SV) at the Drosophila NMJ and (2) the local motion of individual large dense core vesicles (LDCV) in Aplysia neurites. Specifically, a sustained stretch results in enhanced SV accumulation in the Drosophila NMJ. This increased SV accumulation occurs in the absence of extracellular Ca 2+, plateaus after approximately 50 min, and persists for at least 30 min after stretch is reduced. On the other hand, mechanical compression in Aplysia neurites immediately disrupts LDCV motion, leading to decreased range and processivity. This impairment of LDCV motion persists for at least 15 min after tension is restored. These results show that mechanical stretch modulates both local and global vesicle dynamics and strengthens the notion that tension serves a role in regulating neuronal function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-164
Number of pages10
JournalCellular and Molecular Bioengineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Aplysia
  • Cell mechanics
  • Drosophila
  • Live-imaging
  • Subcellular
  • Vesicle tracking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Modeling and Simulation


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