Probing cell membrane mechanics by magnetic particle actuation and 3D rotational particle tracking

M. Irmscher, A.M. Jong, de, H. Kress, M.W.J. Prins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademic

69 Downloads (Pure)


The mechanical properties of the cell membrane and the actin cortex determine a variety of cellular processes. An accurate description of their mechanics and dynamics necessitates a measurement technique that can capture the inherent anisotropy of the system. We combine magnetic particle actuation with rotational and translational particle tracking to simultaneously measure the mechanical stiffness of the membrane and the actin cortex in living cells in three rotational and two translational directions. We demonstrate the technique by targeting various types of membrane receptors. When using particles that bind via integrins, we measured an isotropic stiffness and a characteristic power-law dependence of the shear modulus on the applied frequency. When using particles functionalized with immunoglobulin G, we measured an anisotropic stiffness with a strongly reduced value in one dimension. We suggest that the observed reduced stiffness is caused by a local detachment of the membrane from the subjacent cytoskeletal cortex. Furthermore, we use functionalized particles as phagocytic targets for macrophages. Although phagocytosis is an inherently mechanical process, little is known about the forces and energies that a cell requires for internalization. We use our technique to measure the stiffnesses of the phagocytic cup as a function of time. The measured values and their time-dependence can be interpreted with a model of a pre-stressed membrane connected to an elastically deformable actin cortex. A comparison of model and data allows a determination of the speed at which the membrane advances around the particle. This approach is a novel way of measuring the progression of phagocytic cups and their mechanical properties in real-time. We expect that our technique will enable new insights into the mechanical properties of cells and will help to better understand numerous cellular processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43a
Number of pages1
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number2, suppl. 1
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Event58th Biophysical Society Annual Meeting, February 15-19 2014, San Francisco, California, USA - San Francisco, United States
Duration: 15 Feb 201419 Feb 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Probing cell membrane mechanics by magnetic particle actuation and 3D rotational particle tracking'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this