Confocal reference free traction force microscopy

Martin Bergert, Tobias Lendenmann, Manuel Zündel, Alexander E. Ehret, Daniele Panozzo, Patrizia Richner, David K. Kim, Stephan J.P. Kress, David J. Norris, Olga Sorkine-Hornung, Edoardo Mazza, Dimos Poulikakos, Aldo Ferrari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mechanical wiring between cells and their surroundings is fundamental to the regulation of complex biological processes during tissue development, repair or pathology. Traction force microscopy (TFM) enables determination of the actuating forces. Despite progress, important limitations with intrusion effects in low resolution 2D pillar-based methods or disruptive intermediate steps of cell removal and substrate relaxation in high-resolution continuum TFM methods need to be overcome. Here we introduce a novel method allowing a one-shot (live) acquisition of continuous in- and out-of-plane traction fields with high sensitivity. The method is based on electrohydrodynamic nanodrip-printing of quantum dots into confocal monocrystalline arrays, rendering individually identifiable point light sources on compliant substrates. We demonstrate the undisrupted reference-free acquisition and quantification of high-resolution continuous force fields, and the simultaneous capability of this method to correlatively overlap traction forces with spatial localization of proteins revealed using immunofluorescence methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12814
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - Sep 29 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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