Baseline mechanical characterization of J774 macrophages

Biophys J. 2009 Jan;96(1):248-54. doi: 10.1529/biophysj.108.139154.


Macrophage cell lines like J774 cells are ideal model systems for establishing the biophysical foundations of autonomous deformation and motility of immune cells. To aid comparative studies on these and other types of motile cells, we report measurements of the cortical tension and cytoplasmic viscosity of J774 macrophages using micropipette aspiration. Passive J774 cells cultured in suspension exhibited a cortical resting tension of approximately 0.14 mN/m and a viscosity (at room temperature) of 0.93 kPa.s. Both values are about one order of magnitude higher than the respective values obtained for human neutrophils, lending support to the hypothesis that a tight balance between cortical tension and cytoplasmic viscosity is a physical prerequisite for eukaryotic cell motility. The relatively large stiffness of passive J774 cells contrasts with their capacity for a more than fivefold increase in apparent surface area during active deformation in phagocytosis. Scanning electron micrographs show how microscopic membrane wrinkles are smoothed out and recruited into the apparent surface area during phagocytosis of large targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line / physiology*
  • Cell Line / ultrastructure
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Cytoplasm / physiology
  • Elasticity
  • Macrophages / physiology*
  • Macrophages / ultrastructure
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Microspheres
  • Phagocytosis / physiology
  • Polystyrenes
  • Video Recording
  • Viscosity


  • Polystyrenes