Measurement of the interconnected turgor pressure and envelope elasticity of live bacterial cells†
Turgor pressure and envelope elasticity of bacterial cells are two mechanical parameters that play a dominant role in cellular deformation, division, and motility. However, a clear understanding of these two properties is lacking because of their strongly interconnected mechanisms. This study established a nanoindentation method to precisely measure the turgor pressure and envelope elasticity of live bacteria. The indentation force–depth curves of Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria were recorded with atomic force microscopy. Through combination of dimensional analysis and numerical simulations, an explicit expression was derived to decouple the two properties of individual bacteria from the nanoindentation curves. We show that the Young's modulus of bacterial envelope is sensitive to the external osmotic environment, and the turgor pressure is significantly dependent on the external osmotic stress. This method can not only quantify the turgor pressure and envelope elasticity of bacteria, but also help resolve the mechanical behaviors of bacteria in different environments.