, Volume 32, Issue 10, pp 1443-1452

Anisotropic, Three-Dimensional Deformation of Single Attached Cells Under Compression

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Quantifying three-dimensional deformation of cells under mechanical load is relevant when studying cell deformation in relation to cellular functioning. Because most cells are anchorage dependent for normal functioning, it is desired to study cells in their attached configuration. This study reports new three-dimensional morphometric measurements of cell deformation during stepwise compression experiments with a recently developed cell loading device. The device allows global, unconfined compression of individual, attached cells under optimal environmental conditions. Three-dimensional images of fluorescently stained myoblasts were recorded with confocal microscopy and analyzed with image restoration and three-dimensional image reconstruction software to quantify cell deformation. In response to compression, cell width, cross-sectional area, and surface area increased significantly with applied strain, whereas cell volume remained constant. Interestingly, the cell and the nucleus deformed perpendicular to the direction of actin filaments present along the long axis of the cell. This strongly suggests that this anisotropic deformation can be attributed to the preferred orientation of actin filaments. A shape factor was introduced to quantify the global shape of attached cells. The increase of this factor during compression reflected the anisotropic deformation of the cell.