Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 9–27

Effects of Morphology vs. Cell–Cell Interactions on Endothelial Cell Stiffness

Article

DOI: 10.1007/s12195-010-0142-y

Cite this article as:
Stroka, K.M. & Aranda-Espinoza, H. Cel. Mol. Bioeng. (2011) 4: 9. doi:10.1007/s12195-010-0142-y
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Abstract

Biological processes such as atherogenesis, wound healing, cancer cell metastasis, and immune cell transmigration rely on a delicate balance between cell–cell and cell–substrate adhesion. Cell mechanics have been shown to depend on substrate factors such as stiffness and ligand presentation, while the effects of cell–cell interactions on the mechanical properties of cells has received little attention. Here, we use atomic force microscopy to measure the Young’s modulus of live human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). In varying the degree of cell–cell contact in HUVECs (single cells, groups, and monolayers), we observe that increased cell stiffness correlates with an increase in cell area. Further, we observe that HUVECs stiffen as they spread onto a glass substrate. When we weaken cell–cell junctions (i.e., through a low dose of cytochalasin B or treatment with a VE-cadherin antibody), we observe that cell–substrate adhesion increases, as measured by focal adhesion size and density, and the stiffness of cells within the monolayer approaches that of single cells. Our results suggest that while morphology can roughly be used to predict cell stiffness, cell–cell interactions may play a significant role in determining the mechanical properties of individual cells in tissues by careful maintenance of cell tension homeostasis.

Keywords

Cell mechanicsCell spreadingFocal adhesionsCell tensionActin

Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fischell Department of BioengineeringUniversity of Maryland, College ParkCollege ParkUSA