Quantitative reconstruction of time-varying 3D cell forces with traction force optical coherence microscopy.
ABSTRACT: Cellular traction forces (CTFs) play an integral role in both physiological processes and disease, and are a topic of interest in mechanobiology. Traction force microscopy (TFM) is a family of methods used to quantify CTFs in a variety of settings. State-of-the-art 3D TFM methods typically rely on confocal fluorescence microscopy, which can impose limitations on acquisition speed, volumetric coverage, and temporal sampling or coverage. In this report, we present the first quantitative implementation of a new TFM technique: traction force optical coherence microscopy (TF-OCM). TF-OCM leverages the capabilities of optical coherence microscopy and computational adaptive optics (CAO) to enable the quantitative reconstruction of 3D CTFs in scattering media with minute-scale temporal sampling. We applied TF-OCM to quantify CTFs exerted by isolated NIH-3T3 fibroblasts embedded in Matrigel, with five-minute temporal sampling, using images spanning a 500 × 500 × 500 μm3 field-of-view. Due to the reliance of TF-OCM on computational imaging methods, we have provided extensive discussion of the equations, assumptions, and failure modes of these methods. By providing high-throughput, label-free, volumetric imaging in scattering media, TF-OCM is well-suited to the study of 3D CTF dynamics, and may prove advantageous for the study of large cell collectives, such as the spheroid models prevalent in mechanobiology.
Project description:Cellular traction forces influence epithelial behavior, including wound healing and cell extrusion. Here, we describe a simple in vitro traction force microscopy (TFM) protocol using ECM protein-coated polydimethylsiloxane substrate and widefield fluorescence microscopy. We include detailed steps for analysis so readers can obtain traction forces to study the mechanobiology of epithelial cells. We also provide guidelines on when to adopt another common class of TFM protocols based on polyacrylamide hydrogels. For complete details on the use and execution of this protocol, please refer to Saw et al. (2017) and Teo et al. (2020).
Project description:Mechanobiology relates cellular processes to mechanical signals, such as determining the effect of variations in matrix stiffness with cell tractions. Cell traction recorded via traction force microscopy (TFM) commonly takes place on materials such as polyacrylamide- and polyethylene glycol-based gels. Such experiments remain limited in physiological relevance because cells natively migrate within complex tissue microenvironments that are spatially heterogeneous and hierarchical. Yet, TFM requires determination of the matrix constitutive law (stress-strain relationship), which is not always readily available. In addition, the currently achievable displacement resolution limits the accuracy of TFM for relatively small cells. To overcome these limitations, and increase the physiological relevance of in vitro experimental design, we present a new approach and a set of associated biomechanical signatures that are based purely on measurements of the matrix's displacements without requiring any knowledge of its constitutive laws. We show that our mean deformation metrics (MDM) approach can provide significant biophysical information without the need to explicitly determine cell tractions. In the process of demonstrating the use of our MDM approach, we succeeded in expanding the capability of our displacement measurement technique such that it can now measure the 3D deformations around relatively small cells (?10 micrometers), such as neutrophils. Furthermore, we also report previously unseen deformation patterns generated by motile neutrophils in 3D collagen gels.
Project description:We introduce a novel three-dimensional (3D) traction force microscopy (TFM) method motivated by the recent discovery that cells adhering on plane surfaces exert both in-plane and out-of-plane traction stresses. We measure the 3D deformation of the substratum on a thin layer near its surface, and input this information into an exact analytical solution of the elastic equilibrium equation. These operations are performed in the Fourier domain with high computational efficiency, allowing to obtain the 3D traction stresses from raw microscopy images virtually in real time. We also characterize the error of previous two-dimensional (2D) TFM methods that neglect the out-of-plane component of the traction stresses. This analysis reveals that, under certain combinations of experimental parameters (cell size, substratums' thickness and Poisson's ratio), the accuracy of 2D TFM methods is minimally affected by neglecting the out-of-plane component of the traction stresses. Finally, we consider the cell's mechanosensing of substratum thickness by 3D traction stresses, finding that, when cells adhere on thin substrata, their out-of-plane traction stresses can reach four times deeper into the substratum than their in-plane traction stresses. It is also found that the substratum stiffness sensed by applying out-of-plane traction stresses may be up to 10 times larger than the stiffness sensed by applying in-plane traction stresses.
Project description:Traction Force Microscopy (TFM) is a powerful approach for quantifying cell-material interactions that over the last two decades has contributed significantly to our understanding of cellular mechanosensing and mechanotransduction. In addition, recent advances in three-dimensional (3D) imaging and traction force analysis (3D TFM) have highlighted the significance of the third dimension in influencing various cellular processes. Yet irrespective of dimensionality, almost all TFM approaches have relied on a linear elastic theory framework to calculate cell surface tractions. Here we present a new high resolution 3D TFM algorithm which utilizes a large deformation formulation to quantify cellular displacement fields with unprecedented resolution. The results feature some of the first experimental evidence that cells are indeed capable of exerting large material deformations, which require the formulation of a new theoretical TFM framework to accurately calculate the traction forces. Based on our previous 3D TFM technique, we reformulate our approach to accurately account for large material deformation and quantitatively contrast and compare both linear and large deformation frameworks as a function of the applied cell deformation. Particular attention is paid in estimating the accuracy penalty associated with utilizing a traditional linear elastic approach in the presence of large deformation gradients.
Project description:Native cell-material interactions occur on materials differing in their structural composition, chemistry, and physical compliance. While the last two decades have shown the importance of traction forces during cell-material interactions, they have been almost exclusively presented on purely elastic in vitro materials. Yet, most bodily tissue materials exhibit some level of viscoelasticity, which could play an important role in how cells sense and transduce tractions. To expand the realm of cell traction measurements and to encompass all materials from elastic to viscoelastic, this paper presents a general, and comprehensive approach for quantifying 3D cell tractions in viscoelastic materials. This methodology includes the experimental characterization of the time-dependent material properties for any viscoelastic material with the subsequent mathematical implementation of the determined material model into a 3D traction force microscopy (3D TFM) framework. Utilizing this new 3D viscoelastic TFM (3D VTFM) approach, we quantify the influence of viscosity on the overall material traction calculations and quantify the error associated with omitting time-dependent material effects, as is the case for all other TFM formulations. We anticipate that the 3D VTFM technique will open up new avenues of cell-material investigations on even more physiologically relevant time-dependent materials including collagen and fibrin gels.
Project description:Measuring small forces is a major challenge in cell biology. Here we improve the spatial resolution and accuracy of force reconstruction of the well-established technique of traction force microscopy (TFM) using STED microscopy. The increased spatial resolution of STED-TFM (STFM) allows a greater than 5-fold higher sampling of the forces generated by the cell than conventional TFM, accessing the nano instead of the micron scale. This improvement is highlighted by computer simulations and an activating RBL cell model system.
Project description:Quantification of mechanical forces is a major challenge across biomedical sciences. Yet such measurements are essential to understanding the role of biomechanics in cell regulation and function. Traction force microscopy remains the most broadly applied force probing technology but typically restricts itself to single-plane two-dimensional quantifications with limited spatiotemporal resolution. Here, we introduce an enhanced force measurement technique combining 3D super-resolution fluorescence structural illumination microscopy and traction force microscopy (3D-SIM-TFM) offering increased spatiotemporal resolution, opening-up unprecedented insights into physiological three-dimensional force production in living cells.
Project description:Force exertion is an integral part of cellular behavior. Traction force microscopy (TFM) has been instrumental for studying such forces, providing spatial force measurements at subcellular resolution. However, the applications of classical TFM are restricted by the typical planar geometry. Here, we develop a particle-based force sensing strategy for studying cellular interactions. We establish a straightforward batch approach for synthesizing uniform, deformable and tuneable hydrogel particles, which can also be easily derivatized. The 3D shape of such particles can be resolved with superresolution (<50?nm) accuracy using conventional confocal microscopy. We introduce a reference-free computational method allowing inference of traction forces with high sensitivity directly from the particle shape. We illustrate the potential of this approach by revealing subcellular force patterns throughout phagocytic engulfment and force dynamics in the cytotoxic T-cell immunological synapse. This strategy can readily be adapted for studying cellular forces in a wide range of applications.
Project description:The interactions between biochemical processes and mechanical signaling play important roles during various cellular processes such as wound healing, embryogenesis, metastasis, and cell migration. While traditional traction force measurements have provided quantitative information about cell matrix interactions in two dimensions, recent studies have shown significant differences in the behavior and morphology of cells when placed in three-dimensional environments. Hence new quantitative experimental techniques are needed to accurately determine cell traction forces in three dimensions. Recently, two approaches both based on laser scanning confocal microscopy have emerged to address this need. This study highlights the details, implementation and advantages of such a three-dimensional imaging methodology with the capability to compute cellular traction forces dynamically during cell migration and locomotion. An application of this newly developed three-dimensional traction force microscopy (3D TFM) technique to single cell migration studies of 3T3 fibroblasts is presented to show that this methodology offers a new quantitative vantage point to investigate the three-dimensional nature of cell-ECM interactions.
Project description:We introduce a novel method to compute three-dimensional (3D) displacements and both in-plane and out-of-plane tractions on nominally planar transparent materials using standard epifluorescence microscopy. Despite the importance of out-of-plane components to fully understanding cell behavior, epifluorescence images are generally not used for 3D traction force microscopy (TFM) experiments due to limitations in spatial resolution and measuring out-of-plane motion. To extend an epifluorescence-based technique to 3D, we employ a topology-based single particle tracking algorithm to reconstruct high spatial-frequency 3D motion fields from densely seeded single-particle layer images. Using an open-source finite element (FE) based solver, we then compute the 3D full-field stress and strain and surface traction fields. We demonstrate this technique by measuring tractions generated by both single human neutrophils and multicellular monolayers of Madin–Darby canine kidney cells, highlighting its acuity in reconstructing both individual and collective cellular tractions. In summary, this represents a new, easily accessible method for calculating fully three-dimensional displacement and 3D surface tractions at high spatial frequency from epifluorescence images. We released and support the complete technique as a free and open-source code package.