Volume regulation in adhered cells: Roles of surface tension and cell swelling

Ram M. Adar*, Amit Singh Vishen, Jean François Joanny, Pierre Sens*, Samuel A. Safran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The volume of adhered cells has been shown experimentally to decrease during spreading. This effect can be understood from the pump-leak model, which we have extended to include mechano-sensitive ion transporters. We identify a novel effect that has important consequences on cellular volume loss: cells that are swollen due to a modulation of ion transport rates are more susceptible to volume loss in response to a tension increase. This effect explains in a plausible manner the discrepancies between three recent, independent experiments on adhered cells, between which both the magnitude of the volume change and its dynamics varied substantially. We suggest that starved and synchronized cells in two of the experiments were in a swollen state and, consequently, exhibited a large volume loss at steady state. Nonswollen cells, for which there is a very small steady-state volume decrease, are still predicted to transiently lose volume during spreading due to a relaxing viscoelastic tension that is large compared with the steady-state tension. We elucidate the roles of cell swelling and surface tension in cellular volume regulation and discuss their possible microscopic origins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-512
Number of pages7
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - 7 Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes


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