How to mechanically characterize the extracellular matrix synthesized by lung cancer cells ?

Role and fonction of a protein in extracellular matrix (ECM) formation.

A new dependence receptors family (DR) has been discovered by one of our academic partner. These receptors inhibit tumor progression by inducing apoptosis when cancer cells are in absence of DR ligands.

Due to the frequent inactivation of their apoptotic function in human cancers, DRs are now considered as tumor suppressors. A selective asset allowing tumor escape would be to loose this apoptotic function, either in losing DR itself or in increasing DR ligand presence.

Because DRs induce cell death in territories where the ligand is limited, another selective advantage for a tumor is to produce the appropriate DR ligand.

BioMeca®‘s solutions

BioMeca® has been studied mechanical structure and morphometry of ExtraCellular Matrix (ECM) synthetized by cancer cells. We focused with our partner to investigate specific cancer cells whose express a putative protein tumor suppressors controlling cell death commitment.

Models : human WT cells (protein-positive) & KO cells (protein-negative)

Methods : AFM mechanical properties measurements

We use AFM mode allowing to obtain high-resolution images and force–distance curves. From them, we build topographic maps and extract mechanical properties of the interest area.

A : cells optical images

B : cells AFM topographic images

C : synthesized ECM topographic images

The first parameter we studied has been ECM production. We measured the distance between the cell edges and the front of the ECM.

Then we performed another AFM mode to obtain roughness characteristics to investigate their evolution in the different ECM samples.


We were able to show stiffness differences between the different biological models and then determine which one was more relevant to investigate. We also provided insights into ECM characteristics and proved that ECM stiffness modifications are involved in tumour escape.

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