SFAlab: image-based quantification of mechano-active ventral actin stress fibers in adherent cells

Dylan Mostert, Janine Grolleman, Mark C. van Turnhout, Bart G. W. Groenen, Vito Conte, Cecilia Sahlgren, Nicholas A. Kurniawan, Carlijn V. C. Bouten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Ventral actin stress fibers (SFs) are a subset of actin SFs that begin and terminate at focal adhesion (FA) complexes. Ventral SFs can transmit forces from and to the extracellular matrix and serve as a prominent mechanosensing and mechanotransduction machinery for cells. Therefore, quantitative analysis of ventral SFs can lead to deeper understanding of the dynamic mechanical interplay between cells and their extracellular matrix (mechanoreciprocity). However, the dynamic nature and organization of ventral SFs challenge their quantification, and current quantification tools mainly focus on all SFs present in cells and cannot discriminate between subsets. Here we present an image analysis-based computational toolbox, called SFAlab, to quantify the number of ventral SFs and the number of ventral SFs per FA, and provide spatial information about the locations of the identified ventral SFs. SFAlab is built as an all-in-one toolbox that besides analyzing ventral SFs also enables the identification and quantification of (the shape descriptors of) nuclei, cells, and FAs. We validated SFAlab for the quantification of ventral SFs in human fetal cardiac fibroblasts and demonstrated that SFAlab analysis i) yields accurate ventral SF detection in the presence of image imperfections often found in typical fluorescence microscopy images, and ii) is robust against user subjectivity and potential experimental artifacts. To demonstrate the usefulness of SFAlab in mechanobiology research, we modulated actin polymerization and showed that inhibition of Rho kinase led to a significant decrease in ventral SF formation and the number of ventral SFs per FA, shedding light on the importance of the RhoA pathway specifically in ventral SF formation. We present SFAlab as a powerful open source, easy to use image-based analytical tool to increase our understanding of mechanoreciprocity in adherent cells.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1267822
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • ventral stress fibers
  • mechanobiology
  • microscopy
  • quantitative image analysis
  • adherent cells


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