Correlation of cell strain in single osteocytes with intracellular calcium, but not intracellular nitric oxide, in response to fluid flow

Amber L. Rath, Lynda F. Bonewald, Jian Ling, Jean X. Jiang, Mark E. Van Dyke, Daniel P. Nicolella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Osteocytes compose 90-95% of all bone cells and are the mechanosensors of bone. In this study, the strain experienced by individual osteocytes resulting from an applied fluid flow shear stress was quantified and correlated to two biological responses measured in real-time within the same individual osteocytes: (1) the upregulation of intracellular calcium and (2) changes in intracellular nitric oxide. Osteocyte-like MLO-Y4 cells were loaded with Fluo-4 AM and DAR-4M and exposed to uniform laminar fluid flow shear stresses of 2, 8, or 16dyn/cm2. Intracellular calcium and nitric oxide changes were determined by measuring the difference in fluorescence intensity from the cell's basal level prior to fluid flow and the level immediately following exposure. Individual cell strains were calculated using digital image correlation. MLO-Y4 cells showed a linear increase in cell strain, intracellular calcium concentration, and nitric oxide concentration with an increase in applied fluid flow rate. The increase in intracellular calcium was well correlated to the strain that each cell experienced. This study shows that osteocytes exposed to the same fluid flow experienced a range of individual strains and changes in intracellular calcium and nitric oxide concentrations, and the changes in intracellular calcium were correlated with cell strain. These results are among the first to establish a relationship between the strain experienced by osteocytes in response to fluid flow shear and a biological response at the single cell level. Mechanosensing and chemical signaling in osteocytes has been hypothesized to occur at the single cell level, making it imperative to understand the biological response of the individual cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1560-1564
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Biomechanics
Issue number8
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Calcium
  • Fluid flow
  • Osteocytes
  • Shear stress
  • Strain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Rehabilitation

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