Nano-mechanical studies of prostate cancer cells using atomic force microscopy



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Nano-mechanical properties of prostate cancer cells with different metastatic potentials were investigated, in vitro, to shed light on the issue whether those properties could be utilized as indicators of their aggressiveness. Experimentations involved atomic force microscopy-based indenting and force mapping experiments acquired at LNCaP (lowly metastatic) and CL-1 (highly metastatic) prostate cancer cells that were cultured on plain glass and nano-scaffolds. Various models were applied to extract the mechanical information pertaining to the elasticity, adhesion and topography of the cells. Deviating from the general perspective for metastasis, the elasticity measurements reveal that the elastic modulus of highly metastatic cancer cells, CL-1, is about twice as high (i.e., stiffer) as the elastic modulus of lowly metastatic cancer cells, LNCaP, both at the center of cells’ body and lamellipodia. The two-dimensional maps of adhesion property, in conjunction with the results from the experiments conducted on the nano-scaffolds, reveal that the stiffer cells, CL-1, are more adherent than softer cells, LNCaP. These findings are consistent to the reports observed at in vitro nano-mechanical studies that cultured adherent cells are less deformable than the non-adherent ones. We postulate that the enhanced adhesion generates larger cortical tension that leads to higher elastic modulus observed in CL-1.