, Volume 239, Issue 5, pp 1129–1137 | Cite as

Transverse mechanical properties of cell walls of single living plant cells probed by laser-generated acoustic waves

  • Atef Gadalla
  • Thomas DehouxEmail author
  • Bertrand Audoin
Emerging Technologies


Probing the mechanical properties of plant cell wall is crucial to understand tissue dynamics. However, the exact symmetry of the mechanical properties of this anisotropic fiber-reinforced composite remains uncertain. For this reason, biologically relevant measurements of the stiffness coefficients on individual living cells are a challenge. For this purpose, we have developed the single-cell optoacoustic nanoprobe (SCOPE) technique, which uses laser-generated acoustic waves to probe the stiffness, thickness and viscosity of live single-cell subcompartments. This all-optical technique offers a sub-micrometer lateral resolution, nanometer in-depth resolution, and allows the non-contact measurement of the mechanical properties of live turgid tissues without any assumption of mechanical symmetry. SCOPE experiments reveal that single-cell wall transverse stiffness in the direction perpendicular to the epidermis layer of onion cells is close to that of cellulose. This observation demonstrates that cellulose microfibrils are the main load-bearing structure in this direction, and suggests strong bonding of microfibrils by hemicelluloses. Altogether our measurement of the viscosity at high frequencies suggests that the rheology of the wall is dominated by glass-like dynamics. From a comparison with literature, we attribute this behavior to the influence of the pectin matrix. SCOPE’s ability to unravel cell rheology and cell anisotropy defines a new class of experiments to enlighten cell nano-mechanics.


Probe Beam Cellulose Microfibril Acoustic Phonon Sound Attenuation Longitudinal Stiffness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by the Region Aquitaine and the GIS Advanced Materials in Aquitaine ( We thank A. Boudaoud for fruitful discussions and L. Plawinski for his help in the preparation of the samples.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (GIF 165 kb)
425_2014_2045_MOESM2_ESM.gif (141 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (GIF 141 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Atef Gadalla
    • 1
    • 2
  • Thomas Dehoux
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Bertrand Audoin
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University Bordeaux, I2M, UMR 5295TalenceFrance
  2. 2.CNRS, I2M, UMR 5295TalenceFrance

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