Quantifying cell-induced matrix deformation in three dimensions based on imaging matrix fibers

Jacob Notbohm, Ayelet Lesman, David A. Tirrell, Guruswami Ravichandran*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During processes such as development and cancer metastasis, cells migrate into three-dimensional fibrous matrices. Previous studies have speculated on the mechanical forces required for migration by observing matrix fiber alignment, densification, and degradation, but these forces remain difficult to quantify. Here we present a new experimental technique to simultaneously measure full-field 3D displacements and structural remodeling of a fibrous matrix, both of which result from cellular forces. We apply this "2-in-1" experimental technique to follow single cells as they invade a physiologically relevant fibrin matrix. We find that cells generate tube-like structures in the matrix by plastically deforming their surroundings, and they re-use these tubes to extend protrusions. Cells generate these tubular structures by applying both pulling and pushing forces.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1186-1195
Number of pages10
JournalIntegrative Biology (United Kingdom)
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
California Institute for Regenerative MedicineRB5-07398
National Science Foundation0520565, DGE-1144469, 1206121


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