Scientific reports

Screening cell mechanotype by parallel microfiltration.

PMID 26626154


Cell mechanical phenotype or 'mechanotype' is emerging as a valuable label-free biomarker. For example, marked changes in the viscoelastic characteristics of cells occur during malignant transformation and cancer progression. Here we describe a simple and scalable technique to measure cell mechanotype: this parallel microfiltration assay enables multiple samples to be simultaneously measured by driving cell suspensions through porous membranes. To validate the method, we compare the filtration of untransformed and HRas(V12)-transformed murine ovary cells and find significantly increased deformability of the transformed cells. Inducing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in human ovarian cancer cells by overexpression of key transcription factors (Snail, Slug, Zeb1) or by acquiring drug resistance produces a similar increase in deformability. Mechanistically, we show that EMT-mediated changes in epithelial (loss of E-Cadherin) and mesenchymal markers (vimentin induction) correlate with altered mechanotype. Our results demonstrate a method to screen cell mechanotype that has potential for broader clinical application.