Heavy Metal Exposure Leads to Rapid Changes in Cellular Biophysical Properties


Biophysical properties of cells, such as cell mechanics, cell shape, and cell migration, are emerging hallmarks for characterizing various cell functions. Conversely, disruptions to these biophysical properties may be used as reliable indicators of disruptions to cell homeostasis, such as in the case of chemical-induced toxicity. In this study, we demonstrate that treatment of lead(II) nitrate and cadmium nitrate leads to dosage-dependent changes in a collection of biophysical properties, including cellular traction forces, focal adhesions, mechanical stiffness, cell shape, migration speed, permeability, and wound-healing efficacy in mammalian cells. As those changes appear within a few hours after the treatment with a trace amount of lead/cadmium, our results highlight the promise of using biophysical properties to screen environmental chemicals to identify potential toxicants and establish dose response curves. Our systematic and quantitative characterization of the rapid changes in cytoskeletal structure and cell functions upon heavy metal treatment may inspire new research on the mechanisms of toxicity.

Authors: Peiran Zhu, Jamar Hawkins, Will Hamilton Linthicum, Menglin Wang, Ningwei Li, Nanjia Zhou, Qi Wen, Alicia Timme-Laragy, Xiaofei Song, Yubing Sun
; Full Source: ACS biomaterials science & engineering 2020 Apr 13;6(4):1965-1976. doi: 10.1021/acsbiomaterials.9b01640.