Epifluorescence-based three-dimensional traction force microscopy
Landauer, Alexander K.
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We introduce a novel method to compute three-dimensional (3D) displacements and both in-plane and out-of-plane tractions on nominally planar transparent materials using standard epifluorescence microscopy. Despite the importance of out-of-plane components to fully understand cell behavior, epifluorescence images are generally not used for 3D traction force microscopy (TFM) experiments due to limitations in spatial resolution and measuring out-of-plane motion. To extend an epifluorescence-based technique to 3D, we employ a topology-based single particle tracking algorithm to reconstruct high spatial-frequency 3D motion fields from densely seeded single-particle layer images. Using an open-source finite element (FE) based solver, we then compute the 3D full-field stress and strain and surface traction fields. We demonstrate this technique by measuring tractions generated by both single human neutrophils and multicellular monolayers of Madin-Darby canine kidney cells, highlighting its acuity in reconstructing both individual and collective cellular tractions. In summary, this represents a new, easily accessible method for calculating fully three-dimensional displacement and 3D surface tractions at high spatial frequency from epifluorescence images. We released and support the complete technique as a free and open-source code package.
traction force microscopy
finite element analysis
Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK) cells
collective cell forces