Intra- and Extracellular Microrheology of Endothelial Cells in a 3D Matrix

  • Stephanie I. Fraley
  • Christopher M. Hale
  • Ryan J. Bloom
  • Alfredo Celedon
  • Jerry S. H. Lee
  • Denis Wirtz


Limited progress in our understanding of molecular cell functions in 3D is due, in part, to the lack of quantitative assays to probe cells in the physiological three-dimensional (3D) milieu. We have recently developed quantitative methods to probe the micromechanical properties of live cells inside a 3D matrix and monitor the dynamics of localized matrix remodeling during 3D cell motility. Conventional biophysical methods are unsuitable for cells fully embedded inside a matrix because these methods require direct physical contact between the probe (i.e. AFM cantilever, magnetic bead, or micropipette tip) and the cell surface. To measure local intracellular micromechanics in live cells, the spontaneous movements of submicron beads lodged in the cytoplasm of the matrix-embedded cells are monitored at a distance with nanometer resolution. The mean squared displacements of the beads are transformed into elastic and viscous moduli, which describe the propensity of the cytoplasm to flow or resist shear stresses. To map extracellular matrix remodeling, the cell-mediated movements of large beads tightly embedded in the matrix are monitored around individual cells in 3D. Here we describe the fundamentals and use of both particle-tracking intracellular microrheology and particle-tracking matrix traction mechanics to probe changes in the micromechanical properties of individual human endothelial cells embedded in 3D matrix and subjected to biochemical stimuli or pharmacological treatments compared with the response of cells on conventional flat substrates.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephanie I. Fraley
  • Christopher M. Hale
  • Ryan J. Bloom
  • Alfredo Celedon
  • Jerry S. H. Lee
  • Denis Wirtz
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Chemical and Biomolecular EngineeringThe Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Johns Hopkins Physical Sciences-Oncology CenterThe Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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