Macrophages serve to maintain organ homeostasis in response to challenges from injury, inflammation, malignancy, particulate exposure, or infection. Until now, receptor ligation has been understood as being the central mechanism that regulates macrophage function. Using macrophages of different origins and species, we report that macrophage elasticity is a major determinant of innate macrophage function. Macrophage elasticity is modulated not only by classical biologic activators such as LPS and IFN-γ, but to an equal extent by substrate rigidity and substrate stretch. Macrophage elasticity is dependent upon actin polymerization and small rhoGTPase activation, but functional effects of elasticity are not predicted by examination of gene expression profiles alone. Taken together, these data demonstrate an unanticipated role for cell elasticity as a common pathway by which mechanical and biologic factors determine macrophage function.
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