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Relationships among cell morphology, intrinsic cell stiffness and cellesubstrate interactions



Martin Y. Chiang, Yanzi Yangben, Nancy J. Lin, Li Yang


Cells adjust their morphology in response to physical and chemical interactions with their environment. In this report, we deem that the fundamental nature of free energies associated with cell/substrate interactions regulates adherent cell morphology. The final cell shape due to variations in substrate modulus is an energetically favorable morphology relying on the minimum of the total free energy in the cell/substrate system. This hypothesis is elucidated with a mathematical (thermodynamic) model and further supported through experiments using adherent normal and cancer liver cells. As a result, the model can be used to rationalize how the variation of substrate modulus is translated into changes in cell morphology. Importantly, the study demonstrates that the intrinsic cell modulus can be obtained from the global changes in cell morphology in response to changes in substrate modulus.
Nature Physics


cell modulus, cell morphlogy, free energy, cell-substrate adhesion and interaction, AFM


Chiang, M. , Yangben, Y. , Lin, N. and Yang, L. (2013), Relationships among cell morphology, intrinsic cell stiffness and cellesubstrate interactions, Nature Physics, [online], (Accessed June 24, 2024)


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Created September 26, 2013, Updated March 17, 2017