Probing Micromechanical Properties of the Extracellular Matrix of Soft Tissues by Atomic Force Microscopy

J Cell Physiol. 2017 Jan;232(1):19-26. doi: 10.1002/jcp.25420. Epub 2016 Jun 2.


The extracellular matrix (ECM) determines 3D tissue architecture and provides structural support and chemical and mechanical cues to the cells. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has unique capabilities to measure ECM mechanics at the scale at which cells probe the mechanical features of their microenvironment. Moreover, AFM measurements can be readily combined with bright field and fluorescence microscopy. Performing reliable mechanical measurements with AFM requires accurate calibration of the device and correct computation of the mechanical parameters. A suitable approach to isolate ECM mechanics from cell contribution is removing the cells by means of an effective decellularization process that preserves the composition, structure and mechanical properties of the ECM. AFM measurement of ECM micromechanics provides important insights into organ biofabrication, cell-matrix mechanical crosstalk and disease-induced tissue stiffness alterations. J. Cell. Physiol. 232: 19-26, 2017. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena / physiology*
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena / physiology*
  • Extracellular Matrix / ultrastructure*
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Models, Biological