Mechanical properties of L929 cells measured by atomic force microscopy: Effects of anticytoskeletal drugs and membrane crosslinking

H. W. Wu, T. Kuhn, Vincent T. Moy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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To shed light on the architecture of the cytoskeleton, we used the atomic force microscope (AFM) to measure the elasticity, viscoelasticity, and plasticity of L929 cells. The initial elastic response (Young's modulus ~ 4,000 Pa) of the cells to an applied force was followed by a slow compression of the cytoskeleton (τ 1/4 ≃ 10 s). When force application was terminated, the cytoskeleton underwent a sudden partial decompression and a subsequent slow, incomplete recovery. The role of the cytoskeletal elements in cell mechanics was accessed in AFM measurements carried out on cells treated with cytochalasin D, nocodazole, or colcemid. Cytochalasin D treatment reduced both elasticity (~45%) and cytoplasmic viscosity (~65%), whereas cells treated with nocodazole or colcemid exhibited a marked increase in elasticity (~100%) and a slight increase in viscosity (~15%). The AFM force measurements also provided evidence that the cell membrane and the cytoskeleton are mechanically coupled. Tightly adherent cells were stiffer than cells that were loosely attached. Moreover, cells crosslinked with either glutaraldehyde, 3,3'-dithiobis[sulfosuccinimidylpropionate] (DTSSP), or Concanavalin A were more rigid than untreated cells. It is of interest that cells crosslinked with Concanavalin A, but not DTSSP, displayed plastic behaviors that may reflect the induction of cytoskeletal reorganization by Concanavalin A.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-397
Number of pages9
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 1998



  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Cell mechanics
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Plasticity
  • Viscoelasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Instrumentation

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