Cellular mechanics play a crucial role in tissue morphogenesis and homeostasis and are often misregulated in disease. Traction force microscopy (TFM) is one of the key methods that has enabled researchers to study fundamental aspects of mechanobiology; however, the power of TFM is limited by poor resolution and low throughput. Here, we propose a simplified protocol and imaging strategy, relying on super-resolution microscopy enabled by fluorophore fluctuation analysis, to enhance the output of TFM, by increasing both bead density as well as the accuracy of bead tracking in TFM gels. Our analysis pipeline can be used on either camera-based confocal or widefield microscopes and is fully compatible with available TFM analysis software. In addition, we demonstrate that our workflow can be used to gain biologically relevant information and is suitable for long-term live measurement of traction forces even in light-sensitive cells. Finally, we propose that our strategy could be used to considerably simplify the implementation of TFM screens. Our streamlined protocol can be performed with minimal hardware and software investment, and has the potential to standardize high-resolution TFM.
Aki Stubb , Romain F. Laine , Camilo Guzmán , Ricardo Henriques , Guillaume Jacquemet, and Johanna Ivaska
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