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If Cell Mechanics Can Be Described by Elastic Modulus: Study of Different Models and Probes Used in Indentation Experiments

By Nataliia Guz, Maxim Dokukin, Vivekanand Kalaparthi and Igor Sokolov


AbstractHere we investigated the question whether cells, being highly heterogeneous objects, could be described with the elastic modulus (effective Young’s modulus) in a self-consistent way. We performed a comparative analysis of the elastic modulus derived from the indentation data obtained with atomic force microscopy (AFM) on human cervical epithelial cells (both normal and cancerous). Both sharp (cone) and dull (2500-nm radius sphere) AFM probes were used. The indentation data were processed through different elastic models. The cell was approximated as a homogeneous elastic medium that had either 1), smooth hemispherical boundary (Hertz/Sneddon models) or 2), the boundary covered with a layer of glycocalyx and membrane protrusions (“brush” models). Consistency of these approximations was investigated. Specifically, we tested the independence of the elastic modulus of the indentation depth, which is assumed in these models. We demonstrated that only one model showed consistency in treating cells as a homogeneous elastic medium, namely, the brush model, when processing the indentation data collected with the dull AFM probe. The elastic modulus demonstrated strong depth dependence in all models: Hertz/Sneddon models (no brush taken into account), and when the brush model was applied to the data collected with sharp conical probes. We conclude that it is possible to describe the elastic properties of the cell body by means of an effective elastic modulus, used in a self-consistent way, when using the brush model to analyze data collected with a dull AFM probe. The nature of these results is discussed

Publisher: Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc.
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.bpj.2014.06.033
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