Contribution of the nucleus to the mechanical properties of endothelial cells
The cell nucleus plays a central role in the response of the endothelium to mechanical forces, possibly by deforming during cellular adaptation. The goal of this work was to precisely quantify the mechanical properties of the nucleus. Individual endothelial cells were subjected to compression between glass microplates. This technique allows measurement of the uniaxial force applied to the cell and the resulting deformation. Measurements were made on round and spread cells to rule out the influence of cell morphology on the nucleus mechanical properties. Tests were also carried out with nuclei isolated from cell cultures by a chemical treatment. The non-linear force-deformation curves indicate that round cells deform at lower forces than spread cells and nuclei. Finite-element models were also built with geometries adapted to actual morphometric measurements of round cells, spread cells and isolated nuclei. The nucleus and the cytoplasm were modeled as separate homogeneous hyperelastic materials. The models simulate the compression and yield the force-deformation curve for a given set of elastic moduli. These parameters are varied to obtain a best fit between the theoretical and experimental data. The elastic modulus of the cytoplasm is found to be on the order of 500N/m(2) for spread and round cells. The elastic modulus of the endothelial nucleus is on the order of 5000N/m(2) for nuclei in the cell and on the order of 8000N/m(2) for isolated nuclei. These results represent an unambiguous measurement of the nucleus mechanical properties and will be important in understanding how cells perceive mechanical forces and respond to them.