- There is a growing interest in materials that can dynamically change their properties in the presence of cells to study mechanobiology. Herein, we exploit the 365 nm light mediated [4+4] photodimerization of anthracene groups to develop cytocompatible PEG-based hydrogels with tailorable initial moduli that can be further stiffened. A hydrogel formulation that can stiffen from 10 to 50 kPa, corresponding to the stiffness of a healthy and fibrotic heart, respectively, was prepared. This system was used to monitor the stiffness-dependent localization of NFAT, a downstream target of intracellular calcium signaling using a reporter in live cardiac fibroblasts (CFbs). NFAT translocates to the nucleus of CFbs on stiffening hydrogels within 6 h, whereas it remains cytoplasmic when the CFbs are cultured on either 10 or 50 kPa static hydrogels. This finding demonstrates how dynamic changes in the mechanical properties of a material can reveal the kinetics of mechanoresponsive cell signaling pathways that may otherwise be missed in cells cultured on static substrates.