Mapping mechanical properties of living cells at nanoscale using intrinsic nanopipette–sample force interactions†
Mechanical properties of living cells determined by cytoskeletal elements play a crucial role in a wide range of biological functions. However, low-stress mapping of mechanical properties with nanoscale resolution but with a minimal effect on the fragile structure of cells remains difficult. Scanning Ion-Conductance Microscopy (SICM) for quantitative nanomechanical mapping (QNM) is based on intrinsic force interactions between nanopipettes and samples and has been previously suggested as a promising alternative to conventional techniques. In this work, we have provided an alternative estimation of intrinsic force and stress and demonstrated the possibility to perform qualitative and quantitative analysis of cell nanomechanical properties of a variety of living cells. Force estimation on decane droplets with well-known elastic properties, similar to living cells, revealed that the forces applied using a nanopipette are much smaller than in the case using atomic force microscopy. We have shown that we can perform nanoscale topography and QNM using a scanning procedure with no detectable effect on live cells, allowing long-term QNM as well as detection of nanomechanical properties under drug-induced alterations of actin filaments and microtubulin.