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Force propagation and force generation in cells

: Jonas, O.; Duschl, C.


Cytoskeleton 67 (2010), No.9, pp.555-563
ISSN: 1949-3584
ISSN: 1949-3592
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IBMT ()

Determining how forces are produced by and propagated through the cytoskeleton (CSK) of the cell is of great interest as dynamic processes of the CSK are intimately correlated with many molecular signaling pathways. We are presenting a novel approach for integrating measurements on cell elasticity, transcellular force propagation, and cellular force generation to obtain a comprehensive description of dynamic and mechanical properties of the CSK under force loading. This approach uses a combination of scanning force microscopy (SFM) and Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy. We apply well-defined loading schemes onto the apical cell membrane of fibroblasts using the SFM and simultaneously use TIRF microscopy to image the topography of the basal cell membrane. The locally distinct changes of shape and depth of the cytoskeletal imprints onto the basal membrane are interpreted as results of force propagation through the cytoplasm. This observation provides evidence for the tensegrity model and demonstrates the usefulness of our approach that does not depend on potentially disturbing marker compounds. We confirm that the actin network greatly determines cell stiffness and represents the substrate that mediates force transduction through the cytoplasm of the cell. The latter is an essential feature of tensegrity. Most importantly, our new finding that, both intact actin and microtubule networks are required for enabling the cell to produce work, can only be understood within the framework of the tensegrity model. We also provide, for the first time, a direct measurement of the cell's mechanical power output under compression at two femtowatts.