Single-cell mechanics - An experimental-computational method for quantifying the membrane-cytoskeleton elasticity of cells

M. Tartibi, Y. X. Liu, Gang-yu Liu, K. Komvopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

The membrane-cytoskeleton system plays a major role in cell adhesion, growth, migration, and differentiation. F-actin filaments, cross-linkers, binding proteins that bundle F-actin filaments to form the actin cytoskeleton, and integrins that connect the actin cytoskeleton network to the cell plasma membrane and extracellular matrix are major cytoskeleton constituents. Thus, the cell cytoskeleton is a complex composite that can assume different shapes. Atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based techniques have been used to measure cytoskeleton material properties without much attention to cell shape. A recently developed surface chemical patterning method for long-term single-cell culture was used to seed individual cells on circular patterns. A continuum-based cell model, which uses as input the force-displacement response obtained with a modified AFM setup and relates the membrane-cytoskeleton elastic behavior to the cell geometry, while treating all other subcellular components suspended in the cytoplasmic liquid (gel) as an incompressible fluid, is presented and validated by experimental results. The developed analytical-experimental methodology establishes a framework for quantifying the membrane-cytoskeleton elasticity of live cells. This capability may have immense implications in cell biology, particularly in studies seeking to establish correlations between membrane-cytoskeleton elasticity and cell disease, mortality, differentiation, and migration, and provide insight into cell infiltration through nonwoven fibrous scaffolds. The present method can be further extended to analyze membrane-cytoskeleton viscoelasticity, examine the role of other subcellular components (e.g., nucleus envelope) in cell elasticity, and elucidate the effects of mechanical stimuli on cell differentiation and motility. Statement of Significance This is the first study to decouple the membrane-cytoskeleton elasticity from cell stiffness and introduce an effective approach for measuring the elastic modulus. The novelty of this study is the development of new technology for quantifying the elastic stiffness of the membrane-cytoskeleton system of cells. This capability could have immense implications in cell biology, particularly in establishing correlations between various cell diseases, mortality, and differentiation with membrane-cytoskeleton elasticity, examining through-tissue cell migration, and understanding cell infiltration in porous scaffolds. The present method can be further extended to analyze membrane-cytoskeleton viscous behavior, identify the contribution of other subcellular components (e.g., nucleus envelope) to load sharing, and elucidate mechanotransduction effects due to repetitive compressive loading and unloading on cell differentiation and motility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-235
Number of pages12
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Volume27
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

Keywords

  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Cells
  • Confocal microscopy
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Elasticity
  • Fluid-solid cell model
  • Mechanical properties
  • Mechanics
  • Membrane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomaterials
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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