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Exp Cell Res. 2013 Oct 1;319(16):2470-80. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2013.06.018. Epub 2013 Jun 29.

Techniques for assessing 3-D cell-matrix mechanical interactions in vitro and in vivo.

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Department of Ophthalmology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Boulevard, Dallas, TX 75390-9057, USA.


Cellular interactions with extracellular matrices (ECM) through the application of mechanical forces mediate numerous biological processes including developmental morphogenesis, wound healing and cancer metastasis. They also play a key role in the cellular repopulation and/or remodeling of engineered tissues and organs. While 2-D studies can provide important insights into many aspects of cellular mechanobiology, cells reside within 3-D ECMs in vivo, and matrix structure and dimensionality have been shown to impact cell morphology, protein organization and mechanical behavior. Global measurements of cell-induced compaction of 3-D collagen matrices can provide important insights into the regulation of overall cell contractility by various cytokines and signaling pathways. However, to understand how the mechanics of cell spreading, migration, contraction and matrix remodeling are regulated at the molecular level, these processes must also be studied in individual cells. Here we review the evolution and application of techniques for imaging and assessing local cell-matrix mechanical interactions in 3-D culture models, tissue explants and living animals.


Cell mechanics; Cell migration; Extracellular matrix; Microscopy

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