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Effects of plasma membrane cholesterol level and cytoskeleton F-actin on cell protrusion mechanics.

  • Author(s): Khatibzadeh, Nima
  • Spector, Alexander A
  • Brownell, William E
  • Anvari, Bahman
  • et al.
Abstract

Protrusions are deformations that form at the surface of living cells during biological activities such as cell migration. Using combined optical tweezers and fluorescent microscopy, we quantified the mechanical properties of protrusions in adherent human embryonic kidney cells in response to application of an external force at the cell surface. The mechanical properties of protrusions were analyzed by obtaining the associated force-length plots during protrusion formation, and force relaxation at constant length. Protrusion mechanics were interpretable by a standard linear solid (Kelvin) model, consisting of two stiffness parameters, k0 and k1 (with k0>k1), and a viscous coefficient. While both stiffness parameters contribute to the time-dependant mechanical behavior of the protrusions, k0 and k1 in particular dominated the early and late stages of the protrusion formation and elongation process, respectively. Lowering the membrane cholesterol content by 25% increased the k0 stiffness by 74%, and shortened the protrusion length by almost half. Enhancement of membrane cholesterol content by nearly two-fold increased the protrusion length by 30%, and decreased the k0 stiffness by nearly two-and-half-fold as compared with control cells. Cytoskeleton integrity was found to make a major contribution to protrusion mechanics as evidenced by the effects of F-actin disruption on the resulting mechanical parameters. Viscoelastic behavior of protrusions was further characterized by hysteresis and force relaxation after formation. The results of this study elucidate the coordination of plasma membrane composition and cytoskeleton during protrusion formation.

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