The mechanical properties of the cell membrane and the subjacent actin cortex are determinants of a variety of processes in immunity and cell division. The lipid bilayer itself and its connection to the actin cortex are anisotropic. An accurate description of the mechanical structure of the cell membrane and the involved dynamics therefore necessitates a measurement technique that can capture the inherent anisotropy of the system. Here, we combine magnetic particle actuation with rotational and translational particle tracking to simultaneously measure the mechanical stiffness of monocytic cells in three rotational and two translational directions. When using particles that bind via integrins to the cell membrane and the subjacent cortex, 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 10-fold-reduced value in one dimension. We suggest that the observed reduced stiffness in the plane of the cell membrane is caused by a local detachment of the lipid bilayer from the subjacent cytoskeletal cortex. We expect that our technique will enable new insights into the mechanical properties of the cell membrane that will help us to better understand membrane processes such as phagocytosis and blebbing.
Irmscher, M., Jong, de, A. M., Kress, H., & Prins, M. W. J. (2012). Probing the cell membrane by magnetic particle actuation and Euler angle tracking. Biophysical Journal, 102(3), 698-708. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2011.12.054