Scaling of Traction Forces With the Size of Cohesive Cell Colonies

Phys Rev Lett. 2012 May 11;108(19):198101. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.198101. Epub 2012 May 8.


To understand how the mechanical properties of tissues emerge from interactions of multiple cells, we measure traction stresses of cohesive colonies of 1-27 cells adherent to soft substrates. We find that traction stresses are generally localized at the periphery of the colony and the total traction force scales with the colony radius. For large colony sizes, the scaling appears to approach linear, suggesting the emergence of an apparent surface tension of the order of 10(-3) N/m. A simple model of the cell colony as a contractile elastic medium coupled to the substrate captures the spatial distribution of traction forces and the scaling of traction forces with the colony size.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Chloride
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology*
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cell Count
  • Culture Media
  • Keratinocytes / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological*


  • Culture Media
  • Calcium Chloride