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J Struct Biol. 2009 Sep;167(3):216-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2009.05.005. Epub 2009 May 27.

The elastic modulus of Matrigel as determined by atomic force microscopy.

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Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, United States.


Recent studies indicate that the biophysical properties of the cellular microenvironment strongly influence a variety of fundamental cell behaviors. The extracellular matrix's (ECM) response to mechanical force, described mathematically as the elastic modulus, is believed to play a particularly critical role in regulatory and pathological cell behaviors. The basement membrane (BM) is a specialization of the ECM that serves as the immediate interface for many cell types (e.g. all epithelial cells) and through which cells are connected to the underlying stroma. Matrigel is a commercially available BM-like complex and serves as an easily accessible experimental simulant of native BMs. However, the local elastic modulus of Matrigel has not been defined under physiological conditions. Here we present the procedures and results of indentation tests performed on Matrigel with atomic force microscopy (AFM) in an aqueous, temperature controlled environment. The average modulus value was found to be approximately 450 Pa. However, this result is considerably higher than macroscopic shear storage moduli reported in the scientific literature. The reason for this discrepancy is believed to result from differences in test methods and the tendency of Matrigel to soften at temperatures below 37 degrees C.

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