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J Vis Exp. 2013 Feb 21;(72):e50163. doi: 10.3791/50163.

Quantifying the mechanical properties of the endothelial glycocalyx with atomic force microscopy.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Rochester, NY, USA.

Abstract

Our understanding of the interaction of leukocytes and the vessel wall during leukocyte capture is limited by an incomplete understanding of the mechanical properties of the endothelial surface layer. It is known that adhesion molecules on leukocytes are distributed non-uniformly relative to surface topography (3), that topography limits adhesive bond formation with other surfaces (9), and that physiological contact forces (≈ 5.0 - 10.0 pN per microvillus) can compress the microvilli to as little as a third of their resting length, increasing the accessibility of molecules to the opposing surface (3, 7). We consider the endothelium as a two-layered structure, the relatively rigid cell body, plus the glycocalyx, a soft protective sugar coating on the luminal surface (6). It has been shown that the glycocalyx can act as a barrier to reduce adhesion of leukocytes to the endothelial surface (4). In this report we begin to address the deformability of endothelial surfaces to understand how the endothelial mechanical stiffness might affect bond formation. Endothelial cells grown in static culture do not express a robust glycocalyx, but cells grown under physiological flow conditions begin to approximate the glycocalyx observed in vivo (2). The modulus of the endothelial cell body has been measured using atomic force microscopy (AFM) to be approximately 5 to 20 kPa (5). The thickness and structure of the glycocalyx have been studied using electron microscopy (8), and the modulus of the glycocalyx has been approximated using indirect methods, but to our knowledge, there have been no published reports of a direct measurement of the glycocalyx modulus in living cells. In this study, we present indentation experiments made with a novel AFM probe on cells that have been cultured in conditions to maximize their glycocalyx expression to make direct measurements of the modulus and thickness of the endothelial glycocalyx.

PMID:
23462566
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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