Characterization of mechanical behavior of an epithelial monolayer in response to epidermal growth factor stimulation

Exp Cell Res. 2012 Mar 10;318(5):521-6. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2011.12.003. Epub 2011 Dec 29.


Cell signaling often causes changes in cellular mechanical properties. Knowledge of such changes can ultimately lead to insight into the complex network of cell signaling. In the current study, we employed a combination of atomic force microscopy (AFM) and quartz crystal microbalance with dissipation monitoring (QCM-D) to characterize the mechanical behavior of A431 cells in response to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling. From AFM, which probes the upper portion of an individual cell in a monolayer of cells, we observed increases in energy dissipation, Young's modulus, and hysteresivity. Increases in hysteresivity imply a shift toward a more fluid-like mechanical ordering state in the bodies of the cells. From QCM-D, which probes the basal area of the monolayer of cells collectively, we observed decreases in energy dissipation factor. This result suggests a shift toward a more solid-like state in the basal areas of the cells. The comparative analysis of these results indicates a regionally specific mechanical behavior of the cell in response to EGFR signaling and suggests a correlation between the time-dependent mechanical responses and the dynamic process of EGFR signaling. This study also demonstrates that a combination of AFM and QCM-D is able to provide a more complete and refined mechanical profile of the cells during cell signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / pharmacology*
  • Epidermal Growth Factor / physiology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • ErbB Receptors / agonists*
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Surface Properties


  • Epidermal Growth Factor
  • ErbB Receptors