Quantifying cell-generated forces: Poisson's ratio matters.
Javanmardi Y., Colin-York H., Szita N., Fritzsche M., Moeendarbary E.
Quantifying mechanical forces generated by cellular systems has led to key insights into a broad range of biological phenomena from cell adhesion to immune cell activation. Traction force microscopy (TFM), the most widely employed force measurement methodology, fundamentally relies on knowledge of the force-displacement relationship and mechanical properties of the substrate. Together with the elastic modulus, the Poisson's ratio is a basic material property that to date has largely been overlooked in TFM. Here, we evaluate the sensitivity of TFM to Poisson's ratio by employing a series of computer simulations and experimental data analysis. We demonstrate how applying the correct Poisson's ratio is important for accurate force reconstruction and develop a framework for the determination of error levels resulting from the misestimation of the Poisson's ratio. In addition, we provide experimental estimation of the Poisson's ratios of elastic substrates commonly applied in TFM. Our work thus highlights the role of Poisson's ratio underpinning cellular force quantification studied across many biological systems.