The epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is known to involve several physiological and pathological phenomena. In this study, we utilized a microplate measurement system (MMS) approach based on the deflection of a flexible micro-cantilever to measure cell stiffness (in Pa) and adhesion force (in nN) of a single cell during EMT with nN resolution. Our results demonstrated that after transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) induced EMT (tEMT), NMuMG cells became stiffer due to thicker and more abundant F-actin and displayed stronger vinculin accumulation after long-term cell-substrate adhesion. The MMS could distinguish differences in compressive stiffness (219±10 and 287±14 Pa), tensile stiffness (114±14 and 132±12 Pa), and adhesion force (150±42 and 192±31 nN) between cells before and after tEMT. However, without proper development of the F-actin structure and adequate adherent time, the mechanical differences were diminished. After tEMT, the cells with increased stiffness and a cell-substrate adhesion force benefited by migrating more rapidly and had more invasiveness. Thus, this technology has the potential to benefit research focused on cancer diagnosis, drug development, and cell-substrate interactions.
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