Nonlinear osmotic properties of the cell nucleus.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

In the absence of active volume regulation processes, cell volume is inversely proportional to osmolarity, as predicted by the Boyle Van't Hoff relation. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that nuclear volume has a similar relationship with extracellular osmolarity in articular chondrocytes, cells that are exposed to changes in the osmotic environment in vivo. Furthermore, we explored the mechanism of the relationships between osmolarity and nuclear size and shape. Nuclear size was quantified using two independent techniques, confocal laser scanning microscopy and angle-resolved low coherence interferometry. Nuclear volume was osmotically sensitive but this relationship was not linear, showing a decline in the osmotic sensitivity in the hypo-osmotic range. Nuclear shape was also influenced by extracellular osmolarity, becoming smoother as the osmolarity decreased. The osmotically induced changes in nuclear size paralleled the changes in nuclear shape, suggesting that shape and volume are interdependent. The osmotic sensitivity of shape and volume persisted after disruption of the actin cytoskeleton. Isolated nuclei contracted in response to physiologic changes in macromolecule concentration but not in response to physiologic changes in ion concentration, suggesting solute size has an important influence on the osmotic pressurization of the nucleus. This finding in turn implies that the diffusion barrier that causes osmotic effects is not a semi-permeable membrane, but rather due to size constraints that prevent large solute molecules from entering small spaces in the nucleus. As nuclear morphology has been associated previously with cell phenotype, these findings may provide new insight into the role of mechanical and osmotic signals in regulating cell physiology.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Finan, JD; Chalut, KJ; Wax, A; Guilak, F

Published Date

  • March 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 37 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 477 - 491

PubMed ID

  • 19107599

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC2749482

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1573-9686

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0090-6964

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s10439-008-9618-5


  • eng