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J Biomech. 2007;40(2):476-80. Epub 2006 Feb 28.

Studies of plasma membrane mechanics and plasma membrane-cytoskeleton interactions using optical tweezers and fluorescence imaging.

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Department of Bioengineering, Rice University, P.O. Box 1892, MS 142, Houston, TX 77251-1892, USA.


We use optical tweezers in conjunction with an optical position-sensing system, which spectrally filters signals generated by a trapped fluorescent microsphere to study plasma membrane (PM) mechanics and its interactions with cytoskeleton. We dynamically measure the PM tethering force on human embryonic kidney cells that are a standard cultured cell line. Recorded tethering force vs. PM displacement profiles, revealed the tether formation process, initiated with linear deformation of the PM, followed by a nonlinear regime and terminated with the local separation of PM. Tethering force vs. displacement profiles were used to estimate tether formation force and stiffness parameter of the PM. Integration of the force-displacement profiles yielded the work of tether formation, including linear and nonlinear components. Our results demonstrate that spectral filtering of the optically trapped fluorescent microsphere image formed on the position-sensing system overcomes the artifacts introduced by the transillumination imaging and allows accurate measures of PM mechanics before and during the initial stages of tether formation.

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