Optical measurement of cell membrane tension

Gabriel Popescu, Takahiro Ikeda, Keisuke Goda, Catherine A. Best-Popescu, Michael Laposata, Suliana Manley, Ramachandra R. Dasari, Kamran Badizadegan, Michael S. Feld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using a novel noncontact technique based on optical interferometry, we quantify the nanoscale thermal fluctuations of red blood cells (RBCs) and giant unilamellar vesicles (GUVs). The measurements reveal a nonvanishing tension coefficient for RBCs, which increases as cells transition from a discocytic shape to a spherical shape. The tension coefficient measured for GUVs is, however, a factor of 4-24 smaller. By contrast, the bending moduli for cells and vesicles have similar values. This is consistent with the cytoskeleton confinement model, in which the cytoskeleton inhibits membrane fluctuations [Gov et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 90, 228101, (2003)PRLTAO0031-900710.1103/PhysRevLett. 90.228101].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number218101
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number21
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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