Mechanical forces are critical to modulate cell spreading, contractility, gene expression, and even stem cell differentiation. Yet, existing tools that can apply controllable subcellular forces to a large number of single cells simultaneously are still limited. Here we report a novel ultrasound tweezing cytometry utilizing ultrasound pulses to actuate functionalized lipid microbubbles covalently attached to single live cells to exert mechanical forces in the pN-nN range. Ultrasonic excitation of microbubbles could elicit a rapid and sustained reactive intracellular cytoskeleton contractile force increase in different adherent mechanosensitive cells. Further, ultrasound-mediated intracellular cytoskeleton contractility enhancement was dose-dependent and required an intact actin cytoskeleton as well as RhoA/ROCK signaling. Our results demonstrated the great potential of ultrasound tweezing cytometry technique using functionalized microbubbles as an actuatable, biocompatible, and multifunctional agent for biomechanical stimulations of cells.
ASJC Scopus subject areas