Transgenic force sensors and software to measure force transmission across the mammalian nuclear envelope in vivo

Kelli D. Fenelon, Evan Thomas, Mohammad Samani, Min Zhu, Hirotaka Tao, Yu Sun, Helen McNeill, Sevan Hopyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nuclear mechanotransduction is a growing field with exciting implications for the regulation of gene expression and cellular function. Mechanical signals may be transduced to the nuclear interior biochemically or physically through connections between the cell surface and chromatin. To define mechanical stresses upon the nucleus in physiological settings, we generated transgenic mouse strains that harbour FRET-based tension sensors or control constructs in the outer and inner aspects of the nuclear envelope. We knocked-in a published esprin-2G sensor to measure tensions across the LINC complex and generated a new sensor that links the inner nuclear membrane to chromatin. To mitigate challenges inherent to fluorescence lifetime analysis in vivo, we developed software (FLIMvivo) that markedly improves the fitting of fluorescence decay curves. In the mouse embryo, the sensors responded to cytoskeletal relaxation and stretch applied by micro-aspiration. They reported organ-specific differences and a spatiotemporal tension gradient along the proximodistal axis of the limb bud, raising the possibility that mechanical mechanisms coregulate pattern formation. These mouse strains and software are potentially valuable tools for testing and refining mechanotransduction hypotheses in vivo.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBiology Open
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022


  • FLIM software
  • FRET-based force sensors
  • Limb bud
  • Mouse embryo
  • Nemp1
  • Nesprin-2G
  • Nuclear envelope
  • Nuclear mechanotransduction
  • Transgenic


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