A quartz crystal microbalance based study reveals living cell loading rate via αvβ3 integrins

By Amar, Kshitij; Suni, Ian I.; Chowdhury, Farhan
Published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 2020


Cellular interactions with the microenvironment are mediated by ligand-receptor bonds. Such ligand-receptor bond dynamics is known to be heavily dependent on the loading rate. However, the physiologically-relevant loading rate of living cells remains unknown. Here, using a quartz crystal microbalance (QCM), we developed a bulk-force sensing platform to semi-quantitatively detect the rate of cellular force application during early stages of cell adhesion and spreading. Atop an Au-coated quartz crystal, covalently linked self-assembled monolayers (SAM) were used to immobilize cyclic-RGDfK peptides that can interact with the αvβ3 integrins on cells. The QCM detects the changes in resonant frequency of the vibrating crystal due to the cellular activity/probing (force application) on the QCM surface. The corresponding changes in mass on the surface, proportional to the rate of force application, arise from the cellular interactions with the functionalized surface were calculated. The loading rate of living cells was found to be ∼80–115 pN/s. Collectively, our results revealed a fundamental feature of cell adhesion and spreading providing valuable information regarding cellular interactions with the extracellular matrix.

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