[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Protrusions are deformations that form at the surface of living cells during biological activities such as cell migration. Using combined optical tweezers and fluorescent microscopy, we quantified the mechanical properties of protrusions in adherent human embryonic kidney cells in response to application of an external force at the cell surface. The mechanical properties of protrusions were analyzed by obtaining the associated force-length plots during protrusion formation, and force relaxation at constant length. Protrusion mechanics were interpretable by a standard linear solid (Kelvin) model, consisting of two stiffness parameters, and (with > ), and a viscous coefficient. While both stiffness parameters contribute to the time-dependant mechanical behavior of the protrusions, and in particular dominated the early and late stages of the protrusion formation and elongation process, respectively. Lowering the membrane cholesterol content by 25% increased the stiffness by 74%, and shortened the protrusion length by almost half. Enhancement of membrane cholesterol content by nearly two-fold increased the protrusion length by 30%, and decreased the stiffness by nearly two-and-half-fold as compared with control cells. Cytoskeleton integrity was found to make a major contribution to protrusion mechanics as evidenced by the effects of F-actin disruption on the resulting mechanical parameters. Viscoelastic behavior of protrusions was further characterized by hysteresis and force relaxation after formation. The results of this study elucidate the coordination of plasma membrane composition and cytoskeleton during protrusion formation.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(2):e57147. · 3.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In this study, we investigated the effects of membrane cholesterol content on the mechanical properties of cell membranes by using optical tweezers. We pulled membrane tethers from human embryonic kidney cells using single and multi-speed protocols, and obtained time-resolved tether forces. We quantified various mechanical characteristics including the tether equilibrium force, bending modulus, effective membrane viscosity, and plasma membrane-cytoskeleton adhesion energy, and correlated them to the membrane cholesterol level. Decreases in cholesterol concentration were associated with increases in the tether equilibrium force, tether stiffness, and adhesion energy. Tether diameter and effective viscosity increased with increasing cholesterol levels. Disruption of cytoskeletal F-actin significantly changed the tether diameters in both non-cholesterol and cholesterol-manipulated cells, while the effective membrane viscosity was unaffected by F-actin disruption. The findings are relevant to inner ear function where cochlear amplification is altered by changes in membrane cholesterol content.