The adhesion of cells to surfaces plays a crucial role in processes related to motility and tissue growth. Nonspecific interactions with a surface, e.g., by electrostatic or van der Waals forces, can complement specific molecular interactions and can themselves support strong adhesion. In order to understand the mechanism by which cells establish an adhesive interface in the absence of specific proteins, we have studied the detachment kinetics of monocytic cells from glass surfaces coated with poly-L-lysine. We exposed adhering cells to a shear flow and studied their deformation and detachment trajectories. Our experiments reveal that between 20 and 60 parallel membrane tethers form prior to detachment from the surface. We propose that the extraction of tethers is the consequence of an inhomogeneous adhesion interface and model the detachment mechanism as the dynamic extrusion of cooperatively loaded tethers. In our model, individual tethers detach by a peeling process in which a zone of a few nanometers is loaded by the externally applied force. Our findings suggest that the formation of an inhomogeneous non-specific adhesion interface between a cell and its substrate gives rise to more complex dynamics of detachment than previously discussed.
Irmscher, M., Laarhoven, van, K. A., Jong, de, A. M., & Prins, M. W. J. (2013). The influence of inhomogeneous adhesion on the detachment dynamics of adhering cells. European Biophysics Journal, 42, 419-426. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00249-013-0891-3