Rheology of rounded mammalian cells over continuous high-frequencies
Fläschner, G., Roman, C. I., Strohmeyer, N., Martinez-Martin, D., & Müller, D. J.
Atomic force microscopy, Biomaterials – cells, Biophysics, Cell biology, Characterization and analytical techniques
Understanding the viscoelastic properties of living cells and their relation to cell state and morphology remains challenging. Low-frequency mechanical perturbations have contributed considerably to the understanding, yet higher frequencies promise to elucidate the link between cellular and molecular properties, such as polymer relaxation and monomer reaction kinetics. Here, we introduce an assay, that uses an actuated microcantilever to confine a single, rounded cell on a second microcantilever, which measures the cell mechanical response across a continuous frequency range ≈ 1–40 kHz. Cell mass measurements and optical microscopy are co-implemented. The fast, high-frequency measurements are applied to rheologically monitor cellular stiffening. We find that the rheology of rounded HeLa cells obeys a cytoskeleton-dependent power-law, similar to spread cells. Cell size and viscoelasticity are uncorrelated, which contrasts an assumption based on the Laplace law. Together with the presented theory of mechanical de-embedding, our assay is generally applicable to other rheological experiments.