Mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) play a key role in tissue organization and morphogenesis. Rheological properties of jellyfish ECM (mesoglea) were measured in vivo at the cellular scale by passive microrheology techniques: microbeads were injected in jellyfish ECM and their Brownian motion was recorded to determine the mechanical properties of the surrounding medium. Microrheology results were compared with macrorheological measurements performed with a shear rheometer on slices of jellyfish mesoglea. We found that the ECM behaved as a viscoelastic gel at the macroscopic scale and as a much softer and heterogeneous viscoelastic structure at the microscopic scale. The fibrous architecture of the mesoglea, as observed by differential interference contrast and scanning electron microscopy, was in accord with these scale-dependent mechanical properties. Furthermore, the evolution of the mechanical properties of the ECM during aging was investigated by measuring microrheological properties at different jellyfish sizes. We measured that the ECM in adult jellyfish was locally stiffer than in juvenile ones. We argue that this stiffening is a consequence of local aggregations of fibers occurring gradually during aging of the jellyfish mesoglea and is enhanced by repetitive muscular contractions of the jellyfish.
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