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European Biophysics Journal

, Volume 37, Issue 6, pp 935–945 | Cite as

Probing elasticity and adhesion of live cells by atomic force microscopy indentation

  • L. SirghiEmail author
  • J. Ponti
  • F. Broggi
  • F. RossiEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Atomic force microscopy (AFM) indentation has become an important technique for quantifying the mechanical properties of live cells at nanoscale. However, determination of cell elasticity modulus from the force–displacement curves measured in the AFM indentations is not a trivial task. The present work shows that these force–displacement curves are affected by indenter-cell adhesion force, while the use of an appropriate indentation model may provide information on the cell elasticity and the work of adhesion of the cell membrane to the surface of the AFM probes. A recently proposed indentation model (Sirghi, Rossi in Appl Phys Lett 89:243118, 2006), which accounts for the effect of the adhesion force in nanoscale indentation, is applied to the AFM indentation experiments performed on live cells with pyramidal indenters. The model considers that the indentation force equilibrates the elastic force of the cell cytoskeleton and the adhesion force of the cell membrane. It is assumed that the indenter-cell contact area and the adhesion force decrease continuously during the unloading part of the indentation (peeling model). Force–displacement curves measured in indentation experiments performed with silicon nitride AFM probes with pyramidal tips on live cells (mouse fibroblast Balb/c3T3 clone A31-1-1) in physiological medium at 37°C agree well with the theoretical prediction and are used to determine the cell elasticity modulus and indenter-cell work of adhesion.

Keywords

Cell mechanics Atomic force microscopy indentation Cell membrane adhesion 

Notes

Acknowledgment

We are grateful to Mr. Takao Sasaki for SEM images of the AFM probes used in the experiments.

Supplementary material

249_2008_311_MOESM1_ESM.doc (674 kb)
Electronic supplementary material (DOC 674 kb)

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Copyright information

© EBSA 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.European Commission, Joint Research CenterInstitute for Health and Consumer ProtectionIspra (VA)Italy

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