The influence of nucleus shape and orientation on the elastic modulus of epithelial cells was investigated with atomic force microscopy. The shape and orientation were controlled by presenting the epithelial cells with anisotropic parallel ridges and grooves of varying pitch at the cell substratum. As the cells oriented to the underlying topography, the volume of the nucleus increased as the pitch of the topography increased from 400 nm to 2000 nm. The increase in nucleus volume was reflected by an increase in the measured elastic modulus of the topographically aligned cells. Significant alterations in the shape of the nucleus, by intimate contact with the topographic ridge and grooves of the underlying cell, were also observed via confocal microscopy, indicating that the nucleus may also act as a direct mechanosensor of substratum topography.
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