Staff member

Pere Roca-Cusachs Soulere

Group Leader
Cellular and Molecular Mechanobiology
+34 934 020 863
Staff member publications

Labernadie, A., Kato, T., Brugués, A., Serra-Picamal, X., Derzsi, S., Arwert, E., Weston, A., González-Tarragó, V., Elosegui-Artola, A., Albertazzi, L., Alcaraz, J., Roca-Cusachs, P., Sahai, E., Trepat, X., (2017). A mechanically active heterotypic E-cadherin/N-cadherin adhesion enables fibroblasts to drive cancer cell invasion Nature Cell Biology 19, (3), 224-237

Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) promote tumour invasion and metastasis. We show that CAFs exert a physical force on cancer cells that enables their collective invasion. Force transmission is mediated by a heterophilic adhesion involving N-cadherin at the CAF membrane and E-cadherin at the cancer cell membrane. This adhesion is mechanically active; when subjected to force it triggers β-catenin recruitment and adhesion reinforcement dependent on α-catenin/vinculin interaction. Impairment of E-cadherin/N-cadherin adhesion abrogates the ability of CAFs to guide collective cell migration and blocks cancer cell invasion. N-cadherin also mediates repolarization of the CAFs away from the cancer cells. In parallel, nectins and afadin are recruited to the cancer cell/CAF interface and CAF repolarization is afadin dependent. Heterotypic junctions between CAFs and cancer cells are observed in patient-derived material. Together, our findings show that a mechanically active heterophilic adhesion between CAFs and cancer cells enables cooperative tumour invasion.

Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Conte, Vito, Trepat, Xavier, (2017). Quantifying forces in cell biology Nature Cell Biology 19, (7), 742-751

Cells exert, sense, and respond to physical forces through an astounding diversity of mechanisms. Here we review recently developed tools to quantify the forces generated by cells. We first review technologies based on sensors of known or assumed mechanical properties, and discuss their applicability and limitations. We then proceed to draw an analogy between these human-made sensors and force sensing in the cell. As mechanics is increasingly revealed to play a fundamental role in cell function we envisage that tools to quantify physical forces may soon become widely applied in life-sciences laboratories.

Neri, L., Lasa, M., Elosegui-Artola, A., D'Avola, D., Carte, B., Gazquez, C., Alve, S., Roca-Cusachs, P., Iñarrairaegui, M., Herrero, J., Prieto, J., Sangro, B., Aldabe, R., (2017). NatB-mediated protein N- Oncotarget 8, (25), 40967-40981

The identification of new targets for systemic therapy of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is an urgent medical need. Recently, we showed that hNatB catalyzes the N-

Keywords: CDK2, Cell cycle arrest, Cell-cell junctions, Focal adhesions, Tropomyosin

González-Tarragó, V., Elosegui-Artola, A., Bazellières, E., Oria, R., Pérez-González, C., Roca-Cusachs, P., (2017). Binding of ZO-1 to Molecular Biology of the Cell 28, (14), 1847-1852

Fundamental processes in cell adhesion, motility, and rigidity adaptation are regulated by integrin-mediated adhesion to the extracellular matrix (ECM). The link between the ECM component fibronectin (fn) and integrin

Elosegui-Artola, A., Roca-Cusachs, P., (2017). Amoebae as mechanosensitive tanks Biophysical Journal 112, (12), 2457-2458

Whether employed to search for nutrients or to rearrange tissues, cell migration is essential to the function of uni- and multicellular systems, both in healthy conditions and in disease. Among the several described modes of migration, amoeboid migration is particularly intriguing due to its apparent simplicity. Indeed, it requires only low levels of cell-substrate adhesion, which does not even have to be mediated by specific molecular bonds. This type of migration can be observed across a broad range of cell types including neutrophils, lymphocytes, and tumor cells, although the best-studied case is that of the amoeba of the lower eukaryote Dictyostelium discoideum.

Sunyer, R., Conte, V., Escribano, J., Elosegui-Artola, A., Labernadie, A., Valon, L., Navajas, D., García-Aznar, J. M., Muñoz, J. J., Roca-Cusachs, P., Trepat, X., (2016). Collective cell durotaxis emerges from long-range intercellular force transmission Science 353, (6304), 1157-1161

The ability of cells to follow gradients of extracellular matrix stiffness-durotaxis-has been implicated in development, fibrosis, and cancer. Here, we found multicellular clusters that exhibited durotaxis even if isolated constituent cells did not. This emergent mode of directed collective cell migration applied to a variety of epithelial cell types, required the action of myosin motors, and originated from supracellular transmission of contractile physical forces. To explain the observed phenomenology, we developed a generalized clutch model in which local stick-slip dynamics of cell-matrix adhesions was integrated to the tissue level through cell-cell junctions. Collective durotaxis is far more efficient than single-cell durotaxis; it thus emerges as a robust mechanism to direct cell migration during development, wound healing, and collective cancer cell invasion.

Elosegui, Alberto, Oria, Roger, Chen, Yunfeng, Kosmalska, Anita, Perez-Gonzalez, Carlos, Castro, Natalia, Zhu, Cheng, Trepat, Xavier, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, (2016). Mechanical regulation of a molecular clutch defines force transmission and transduction in response to matrix rigidity Nature Cell Biology 18, (5), 540-548

Cell function depends on tissue rigidity, which cells probe by applying and transmitting forces to their extracellular matrix, and then transducing them into biochemical signals. Here we show that in response to matrix rigidity and density, force transmission and transduction are explained by the mechanical properties of the actin-talin-integrin-fibronectin clutch. We demonstrate that force transmission is regulated by a dynamic clutch mechanism, which unveils its fundamental biphasic force/rigidity relationship on talin depletion. Force transduction is triggered by talin unfolding above a stiffness threshold. Below this threshold, integrins unbind and release force before talin can unfold. Above the threshold, talin unfolds and binds to vinculin, leading to adhesion growth and YAP nuclear translocation. Matrix density, myosin contractility, integrin ligation and talin mechanical stability differently and nonlinearly regulate both force transmission and the transduction threshold. In all cases, coupling of talin unfolding dynamics to a theoretical clutch model quantitatively predicts cell response.

Wolfenson, Haguy, Meacci, Giovanni, Liu, Shuaimin, Stachowiak, Matthew R., Iskratsch, Thomas, Ghassemi, Saba, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Oshaughnessy, Ben, Hone, James, Sheetz, Michael P., (2016). Tropomyosin controls sarcomere-like contractions for rigidity sensing and suppressing growth on soft matrices Nature Cell Biology 18, 33-42

Cells test the rigidity of the extracellular matrix by applying forces to it through integrin adhesions. Recent measurements show that these forces are applied by local micrometre-scale contractions, but how contraction force is regulated by rigidity is unknown. Here we performed high temporal- and spatial-resolution tracking of contractile forces by plating cells on sub-micrometre elastomeric pillars. We found that actomyosin-based sarcomere-like contractile units (CUs) simultaneously moved opposing pillars in net steps of [sim]2.5[thinsp]nm, independent of rigidity. What correlated with rigidity was the number of steps taken to reach a force level that activated recruitment of [alpha]-actinin to the CUs. When we removed actomyosin restriction by depleting tropomyosin 2.1, we observed larger steps and higher forces that resulted in aberrant rigidity sensing and growth of non-transformed cells on soft matrices. Thus, we conclude that tropomyosin 2.1 acts as a suppressor of growth on soft matrices by supporting proper rigidity sensing.

Keywords: Cell adhesion, Mechanotransduction

Meacci, G., Wolfenson, H., Liu, S., Stachowiak, M. R., Iskratsch, T., Mathur, A., Ghassemi, S., Gauthier, N., Tabdanov, E., Lohner, J., Gondarenko, A., Chander, A. C., Roca-Cusachs, P., O'Shaughnessy, B., Hone, J., Sheetz, M. P., (2016). α-Actinin links extracellular matrix rigidity-sensing contractile units with periodic cell-edge retractions Molecular Biology of the Cell 27, (22), 3471-3479

During spreading and migration, the leading edges of cells undergo periodic protrusion--retraction cycles. The functional purpose of these cycles is unclear. Here, using submicrometer polydimethylsiloxane pillars as substrates for cell spreading, we show that periodic edge retractions coincide with peak forces produced by local contractile units (CUs) that assemble and disassemble along the cell edge to test matrix rigidity. We find that, whereas actin rearward flow produces a relatively constant force inward, the peak of local contractile forces by CUs scales with rigidity. The cytoskeletal protein α-Actinin is shared between these two force-producing systems. It initially localizes to the CUs and subsequently moves inward with the actin flow. Knockdown of α-Actinin causes aberrant rigidity sensing, loss of CUs, loss of protrusion-retraction cycles, and, surprisingly, enables the cells to proliferate on soft matrices. We present a model based on these results in which local CUs drive rigidity sensing and adhesion formation.

Bazellières, Elsa, Conte, Vito, Elosegui, Alberto, Serra-Picamal, Xavier, Bintanel-Morcillo, María, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Muñoz, José J., Sales-Pardo, Marta, Guimerà, Roger, Trepat, Xavier, (2015). Control of cell-cell forces and collective cell dynamics by the intercellular adhesome Nature Cell Biology 17, (4), 409-420

Dynamics of epithelial tissues determine key processes in development, tissue healing and cancer invasion. These processes are critically influenced by cell–cell adhesion forces. However, the identity of the proteins that resist and transmit forces at cell–cell junctions remains unclear, and how these proteins control tissue dynamics is largely unknown. Here we provide a systematic study of the interplay between cell–cell adhesion proteins, intercellular forces and epithelial tissue dynamics. We show that collective cellular responses to selective perturbations of the intercellular adhesome conform to three mechanical phenotypes. These phenotypes are controlled by different molecular modules and characterized by distinct relationships between cellular kinematics and intercellular forces. We show that these forces and their rates can be predicted by the concentrations of cadherins and catenins. Unexpectedly, we identified different mechanical roles for P-cadherin and E-cadherin; whereas P-cadherin predicts levels of intercellular force, E-cadherin predicts the rate at which intercellular force builds up.

Kosmalska, A. J., Casares, L., Elosegui, A., Thottacherry, J. J., Moreno-Vicente, R., González-Tarragó, V., Del Pozo, M. Á, Mayor, S., Arroyo, M., Navajas, D., Trepat, X., Gauthier, N. C., Roca-Cusachs, P., (2015). Physical principles of membrane remodelling during cell mechanoadaptation Nature Communications 6, 7292

Biological processes in any physiological environment involve changes in cell shape, which must be accommodated by their physical envelope - the bilayer membrane. However, the fundamental biophysical principles by which the cell membrane allows for and responds to shape changes remain unclear. Here we show that the 3D remodelling of the membrane in response to a broad diversity of physiological perturbations can be explained by a purely mechanical process. This process is passive, local, almost instantaneous, before any active remodelling and generates different types of membrane invaginations that can repeatedly store and release large fractions of the cell membrane. We further demonstrate that the shape of those invaginations is determined by the minimum elastic and adhesive energy required to store both membrane area and liquid volume at the cell-substrate interface. Once formed, cells reabsorb the invaginations through an active process with duration of the order of minutes.

Elosegui, A., Bazellières, E., Allen, M. D., Andreu, I., Oria, R., Sunyer, R., Gomm, J. J., Marshall, J. F., Jones, J. L., Trepat, X., Roca-Cusachs, P., (2014). Rigidity sensing and adaptation through regulation of integrin types Nature Materials 13, (6), 631-637

Tissue rigidity regulates processes in development, cancer and wound healing. However, how cells detect rigidity, and thereby modulate their behaviour, remains unknown. Here, we show that sensing and adaptation to matrix rigidity in breast myoepithelial cells is determined by the bond dynamics of different integrin types. Cell binding to fibronectin through either

Roca-Cusachs, P., Del Rio, A., Puklin-Faucher, E., Gauthier, N. C., Biais, N., Sheetz, M. P., (2013). Integrin-dependent force transmission to the extracellular matrix by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 110, (15), E1361-E1370

Focal adhesions are mechanosensitive elements that enable mechanical communication between cells and the extracellular matrix. Here, we demonstrate a major mechanosensitive pathway in which α-actinin triggers adhesion maturation by linking integrins to actin in nascent adhesions. We show that depletion of the focal adhesion protein α-actinin enhances force generation in initial adhesions on fibronectin, but impairs mechanotransduction in a subsequent step, preventing adhesion maturation. Expression of an α-actinin fragment containing the integrin binding domain, however, dramatically reduces force generation in depleted cells. This behavior can be explained by a competition between talin (which mediates initial adhesion and force generation) and α-actinin for integrin binding. Indeed, we show in an in vitro assay that talin and α-actinin compete for binding to β3 integrins, but cooperate in binding to β1 integrins. Consistently, we find opposite effects of α-actinin depletion and expression of mutants on substrates that bind β3 integrins (fibronectin and vitronectin) versus substrates that only bind β1 integrins (collagen). We thus suggest that nascent adhesions composed of β3 integrins are initially linked to the actin cytoskeleton by talin, and then α-actinin competes with talin to bind β3 integrins. Force transmitted through α-actinin then triggers adhesion maturation. Once adhesions have matured, α-actinin recruitment correlates with force generation, suggesting that α-actinin is the main link transmitting force between integrins and the cytoskeleton in mature adhesions. Such a multistep process enables cells to adjust forces on matrices, unveiling a role of α-actinin that is different from its well-studied function as an actin cross-linker.

Roca-Cusachs, P., Sunyer, R., Trepat, X., (2013). Mechanical guidance of cell migration: lessons from chemotaxis Current Opinion in Cell Biology 25, (5), 543-549

For an organism to develop, for a wound to heal, or for a tumor to invade, cells must be able to migrate following directional cues. It is widely accepted that directed cell migration is enabled by cellular sensing of local gradients in the concentration of chemical factors. The main molecular players involved in this mode of cellular guidance - chemotaxis - have been identified and the combination of modeling and experimental approaches is progressively unveiling a clear picture of the underlying mechanisms. Evidence obtained over the past decade has shown that cells can also be guided by mechanical stimuli such as physical forces or gradients in extracellular matrix stiffness. Mechanical guidance, which we refer here globally as mechanotaxis, is also thought to drive processes in development, cancer, and wound healing, but experimental evidence is scattered and mechanisms remain largely unknown. Here we use the better understood process of chemotaxis as a reference to define the building blocks that are required for cell guidance, and then discuss how these building blocks might be organized in mechanotaxis. We show that both chemotaxis and mechanotaxis involve an exquisite interplay between physical and chemical mechanisms to sense gradients, establish polarization, and drive directed migration.

Ghassemi, S., Meacci, G., Liu, S., Gondarenko, A. A., Mathur, A., Roca-Cusachs, P., Sheetz, M. P., Hone, J., (2012). Cells test substrate rigidity by local contractions on submicrometer pillars Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 109, (14), 5328-5333

Cell growth and differentiation are critically dependent upon matrix rigidity, yet many aspects of the cellular rigidity-sensing mechanism are not understood. Here, we analyze matrix forces after initial cell-matrix contact, when early rigidity-sensing events occur, using a series of elastomeric pillar arrays with dimensions extending to the submicron scale (2, 1, and 0.5 μm in diameter covering a range of stiffnesses). We observe that the cellular response is fundamentally different on micron-scale and submicron pillars. On 2-μm diameter pillars, adhesions form at the pillar periphery, forces are directed toward the center of the cell, and a constant maximum force is applied independent of stiffness. On 0.5-μm diameter pillars, adhesions form on the pillar tops, and local contractions between neighboring pillars are observed with a maximum displacement of ∼60 nm, independent of stiffness. Because mutants in rigidity sensing show no detectable displacement on 0.5-μm diameter pillars, there is a correlation between local contractions to 60 nm and rigidity sensing. Localization of myosin between submicron pillars demonstrates that submicron scale myosin filaments can cause these local contractions. Finally, submicron pillars can capture many details of cellular force generation that are missed on larger pillars and more closely mimic continuous surfaces.

Keywords: Cell mechanics, Mechanotransduction, Nanofabrication

Roca-Cusachs, P., Iskratsch, T., Sheetz, M. P., (2012). Finding the weakest link: exploring integrin-mediated mechanical molecular pathways Journal of Cell Science 125, (13), 3025-3038

From the extracellular matrix to the cytoskeleton, a network of molecular links connects cells to their environment. Molecules in this network transmit and detect mechanical forces, which subsequently determine cell behavior and fate. Here, we reconstruct the mechanical pathway followed by these forces. From matrix proteins to actin through integrins and adaptor proteins, we review how forces affect the lifetime of bonds and stretch or alter the conformation of proteins, and how these mechanical changes are converted into biochemical signals in mechanotransduction events. We evaluate which of the proteins in the network can participate in mechanotransduction and which are simply responsible for transmitting forces in a dynamic network. Besides their individual properties, we also analyze how the mechanical responses of a protein are determined by their serial connections from the matrix to actin, their parallel connections in integrin clusters and by the rate at which force is applied to them. All these define mechanical molecular pathways in cells, which are emerging as key regulators of cell function alongside better studied biochemical pathways.

Keywords: Cell adhesion, Cytoskeleton, Mechanotransduction

Gauthier, Nils C., Fardin, Marc Antoine, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Sheetz, Michael P., (2011). Temporary increase in plasma membrane tension coordinates the activation of exocytosis and contraction during cell spreading Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, (35), 14467-14472

Cell migration and spreading involve the coordination of membrane trafficking, actomyosin contraction, and modifications to plasma membrane tension and area. The biochemical or biophysical basis for this coordination is however unknown. In this study, we show that during cell spreading, lamellipodia protrusion flattens plasma membrane folds and blebs and, once the plasma membrane area is depleted, there is a temporary increase in membrane tension by over twofold that is followed by activation of exocytosis and myosin contraction. Further, an artificial increase in plasma membrane tension stopped lamellipodia protrusion and activated an exocytotic burst. Subsequent decrease in tension restored spreading with activation of contraction. Conversely, blebbistatin inhibition of actomyosin contraction resulted in an even greater increase in plasma membrane tension and exocytosis activation. This spatio-temporal synchronization indicates that membrane tension is the signal that coordinates membrane trafficking, actomyosin contraction, and plasma membrane area change. We suggest that cells use plasma membrane tension as a global physical parameter to control cell motility.

Keywords: Surface-area regulation, Cytoskeleton adhesion, Erythrocyte-membrane, Extensional flow, Elastic tether, Force

Moore, S. W., Roca-Cusachs, P., Sheetz, M. P., (2010). Stretchy proteins on stretchy substrates: The important elements of integrin-mediated rigidity sensing Developmental Cell 19, (2), 194-206

Matrix and tissue rigidity guides many cellular processes, including the differentiation of stem cells and the migration of cells in health and disease. Cells actively and transiently test rigidity using mechanisms limited by inherent physical parameters that include the strength of extracellular attachments, the pulling capacity on these attachments, and the sensitivity of the mechanotransduction system. Here, we focus on rigidity sensing mediated through the integrin family of extracellular matrix receptors and linked proteins and discuss the evidence supporting these proteins as mechanosensors.

Keywords: Focal adhesion kinase, Atomic Force Microscopy, Smooth-muscle cells, Traction forces, Living cells, Mechanical force, Locomoting cells

Roca-Cusachs, P., Gauthier, N. C., del Rio, A., Sheetz, M. P., (2009). Clustering of alpha(5)beta(1) integrins determines adhesion strength whereas alpha(v)beta(3) and talin enable mechanotransduction Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106, (38), 16245-16250

A key molecular link between cells and the extracellular matrix is the binding between fibronectin and integrins alpha(5)beta(1) and alpha(v)beta(3). However, the roles of these different integrins in establishing adhesion remain unclear. We tested the adhesion strength of fibronectin-integrin-cytoskeleton linkages by applying physiological nanonewton forces to fibronectin-coated magnetic beads bound to cells. We report that the clustering of fibronectin domains within 40 nm led to integrin alpha(5)beta(1) recruitment, and increased the ability to sustain force by over six-fold. This force was supported by alpha(5)beta(1) integrin clusters. Importantly, we did not detect a role of either integrin alpha(v)beta(3) or talin 1 or 2 in maintaining adhesion strength. Instead, these molecules enabled the connection to the cytoskeleton and reinforcement in response to an applied force. Thus, high matrix forces are primarily supported by clustered alpha(5)beta(1) integrins, while less stable links to alpha(v)beta(3) integrins initiate mechanotransduction, resulting in reinforcement of integrin-cytoskeleton linkages through talin-dependent bonds.

Keywords: Cell-adhesion, Mechanical force, Vinculin-binding, Fibronectin, Activation, Dynamics, Domain, Alpha-v-beta-3, Translocation, Bonds

Gavara, N., Roca-Cusachs, P., Sunyer, R., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2008). Mapping cell-matrix stresses during stretch reveals inelastic reorganization of the cytoskeleton Biophysical Journal 95, (1), 464-471

The mechanical properties of the living cell are intimately related to cell signaling biology through cytoskeletal tension. The tension borne by the cytoskeleton (CSK) is in part generated internally by the actomyosin machinery and externally by stretch. Here we studied how cytoskeletal tension is modified during stretch and the tensional changes undergone by the sites of cell-matrix interaction. To this end we developed a novel technique to map cell-matrix stresses during application of stretch. We found that cell-matrix stresses increased with imposition of stretch but dropped below baseline levels on stretch release. Inhibition of the actomyosin machinery resulted in a larger relative increase in CSK tension with stretch and in a smaller drop in tension after stretch release. Cell-matrix stress maps showed that the loci of cell adhesion initially bearing greater stress also exhibited larger drops in traction forces after stretch removal. Our results suggest that stretch partially disrupts the actin-myosin apparatus and the cytoskeletal structures that support the largest CSK tension. These findings indicate that cells use the mechanical energy injected by stretch to rapidly reorganize their structure and redistribute tension.

Keywords: Cell Line, Computer Simulation, Cytoskeleton/ physiology, Elasticity, Epithelial Cells/ physiology, Extracellular Matrix/ physiology, Humans, Mechanotransduction, Cellular/ physiology, Models, Biological, Stress, Mechanical

Roca-Cusachs, P., Alcaraz, J., Sunyer, R., Samitier, J., Farre, R., Navajas, D., (2008). Micropatterning of single endothelial cell shape reveals a tight coupling between nuclear volume in G1 and proliferation Biophysical Journal 94, (12), 4984-4995

Shape-dependent local differentials in cell proliferation are considered to be a major driving mechanism of structuring processes in vivo, such as embryogenesis, wound healing, and angiogenesis. However, the specific biophysical signaling by which changes in cell shape contribute to cell cycle regulation remains poorly understood. Here, we describe our study of the roles of nuclear volume and cytoskeletal mechanics in mediating shape control of proliferation in single endothelial cells. Micropatterned adhesive islands were used to independently control cell spreading and elongation. We show that, irrespective of elongation, nuclear volume and apparent chromatin decondensation of cells in G1 systematically increased with cell spreading and highly correlated with DNA synthesis (percent of cells in the S phase). In contrast, cell elongation dramatically affected the organization of the actin cytoskeleton, markedly reduced both cytoskeletal stiffness (measured dorsally with atomic force microscopy) and contractility (measured ventrally with traction microscopy), and increased mechanical anisotropy, without affecting either DNA synthesis or nuclear volume. Our results reveal that the nuclear volume in G1 is predictive of the proliferative status of single endothelial cells within a population, whereas cell stiffness and contractility are not. These findings show that the effects of cell mechanics in shape control of proliferation are far more complex than a linear or straightforward relationship. Our data are consistent with a mechanism by which spreading of cells in G1 partially enhances proliferation by inducing nuclear swelling and decreasing chromatin condensation, thereby rendering DNA more accessible to the replication machinery.

Keywords: Cell Line, Cell Nucleus/ physiology, Cell Proliferation, Cell Size, Computer Simulation, Endothelial Cells/ cytology/ physiology, G1 Phase/ physiology, Humans, Mechanotransduction, Cellular/ physiology, Models, Biological, Statistics as Topic

Rico, Félix, Roca-Cusachs, Pere, Sunyer, Raimon, Farré, Ramon, Navajas, Daniel, (2007). Cell dynamic adhesion and elastic properties probed with cylindrical atomic force microscopy cantilever tips Journal of Molecular Recognition John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 20, (6), 459-466

Cell adhesion is required for essential biological functions such as migration, tissue formation and wound healing, and it is mediated by individual molecules that bind specifically to ligands on other cells or on the extracellular matrix. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been successfully used to measure cell adhesion at both single molecule and whole cell levels. However, the measurement of inherent cell adhesion properties requires a constant cell-probe contact area during indentation, a requirement which is not fulfilled in common pyramidal or spherical AFM tips. We developed a procedure using focused ion beam (FIB) technology by which we modified silicon pyramidal AFM cantilever tips to obtain flat-ended cylindrical tips with a constant and known area of contact. The tips were validated on elastic gels and living cells. Cylindrical tips showed a fairly linear force-indentation behaviour on both gels and cells for indentations > 200nm. Cylindrical tips coated with ligands were used to quantify inherent dynamic cell adhesion and elastic properties. Force, work of adhesion and elasticity showed a marked dynamic response. In contrast, the deformation applied to the cells before rupture was fairly constant within the probed dynamic range. Taken together, these results suggest that the dynamic adhesion strength is counterbalanced by the dynamic elastic response to keep a constant cell deformation regardless of the applied pulling rate.

Keywords: AFM, Cell adhesion, Cell mechanics, Cell stiffness

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