Probing transmembrane mechanical coupling and cytomechanics using magnetic twisting cytometry.

N. Wang, D. E. Ingber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We recently developed a magnetic twisting cytometry technique that allows us to apply controlled mechanical stresses to specific cell surface receptors using ligand-coated ferromagnetic microbeads and to simultaneously measure the mechanical response in living cells. Using this technique, we have previously shown the following: (i) beta 1 integrin receptors mediate mechanical force transfer across the cell surface and to the cytoskeleton, whereas other transmembrane receptors (e.g., scavenger receptors) do not; (ii) cytoskeletal stiffness increases in direct proportion to the level of stress applied to integrins; and (iii) the slope of this linear stiffening response differs depending on the shape of the cell. We now show that different integrins (beta 1, alpha V beta 3, alpha V, alpha 5, alpha 2) and other transmembrane receptors (scavenger receptor, platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule) differ in their ability to mediate force transfer across the cell surface. In addition, the linear stiffening behavior previously observed in endothelial cells was found to be shared by other cell types. Finally, we demonstrate that dynamic changes in cell shape that occur during both cell spreading and retraction are accompanied by coordinate changes in cytoskeletal stiffness. Taken together, these results suggest that the magnetic twisting cytometry technique may be a powerful and versatile tool for studies analyzing the molecular basis of transmembrane mechanical coupling to the cytoskeleton as well as dynamic relations between changes in cytoskeletal structure and alterations in cell form and function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-335
Number of pages9
JournalBiochemistry and cell biology = Biochimie et biologie cellulaire
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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