Cell Signaling Experiments Driven by Optical Manipulation

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  • 09 June 2013
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Francesco Difato Giulietta Pinato and Dan Cojoc

Abstract: Cell signaling involves complex transduction mechanisms in which information
released by nearby cells or extracellular cues are transmitted to the cell, regulating
fundamental cellular activities. Understanding such mechanisms requires cell stimulation
with precise control of low numbers of active molecules at high spatial and temporal
resolution under physiological conditions. Optical manipulation techniques, such as optical
tweezing, mechanical stress probing or nano-ablation, allow handling of probes and
sub-cellular elements with nanometric and millisecond resolution. PicoNewton forces, such
as those involved in cell motility or intracellular activity, can be measured with
femtoNewton sensitivity while controlling the biochemical environment. Recent technical
achievements in optical manipulation have new potentials, such as exploring the actions of
individual molecules within living cells. Here, we review the progress in optical
manipulation techniques for single-cell experiments, with a focus on force probing, cell
mechanical stimulation and the local delivery of active molecules using optically
manipulated micro-vectors and laser dissection.