Size- and speed-dependent mechanical behavior in living mammalian cytoplasm [Biophysics and Computational Biology]
Active transport in the cytoplasm plays critical roles in living cell physiology. However, the mechanical resistance that intracellular compartments experience, which is governed by the cytoplasmic material property, remains elusive, especially its dependence on size and speed. Here we use optical tweezers to drag a bead in the cytoplasm and directly probe the mechanical resistance with varying size a and speed V. We introduce a method, combining the direct measurement and a simple scaling analysis, to reveal different origins of the size- and speed-dependent resistance in living mammalian cytoplasm. We show that the cytoplasm exhibits size-independent viscoelasticity as long as the effective strain rate V/a is maintained in a relatively low range (0.1 s−1 < V/a < 2 s−1) and exhibits size-dependent poroelasticity at a high effective strain rate regime (5 s−1 < V/a < 80 s−1). Moreover, the cytoplasmic modulus is found to be positively correlated with only V/a in the viscoelastic regime but also increases with the bead size at a constant V/a in the poroelastic regime. Based on our measurements, we obtain a full-scale state diagram of the living mammalian cytoplasm, which shows that the cytoplasm changes from a viscous fluid to an elastic solid, as well as from compressible material to incompressible material, with increases in the values of two dimensionless parameters, respectively. This state diagram is useful to understand the underlying mechanical nature of the cytoplasm in a variety of cellular processes over a broad range of speed and size scales.
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