Cellular Micromechanics

Plasma membrane lipid tether in an alveolar epithelial cell.

Plasma membrane lipid tether in an alveolar epithelial cell.

Optical trapping of plasma membrane-bound proteins is used to pull plasma membrane lipid tethers and to measure lipid tether tension. Tether tension correlates with the adhesive force between membrane and the subcortical cytoskeleton, which determines the likelihood of deformation-induced membrane stress failure.

Such measurements have inspired a search for agents that stiffen the cytoskeleton and increase the adhesive interactions between the cytoskeleton and the plasma membrane (such as hypertonic solutions).