Modeling cell-substrate de-adhesion dynamics under fluid shear

Renu Maan, Garima Rani, Gautam I. Menon, Pramod A. Pullarkat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Changes in cell-substrate adhesion are believed to signal the onset of cancer metastasis, but such changes must be quantified against background levels of intrinsic heterogeneity between cells. Variations in cell-substrate adhesion strengths can be probed through biophysical measurements of cell detachment from substrates upon the application of an external force. Here, we investigate, theoretically and experimentally, the detachment of cells adhered to substrates when these cells are subjected to fluid shear. We present a theoretical framework within which we calculate the fraction of detached cells as a function of shear stress for fast ramps as well as the decay in this fraction at fixed shear stress as a function of time. Using HEK and 3T3 fibroblast cells as experimental model systems, we extract characteristic force scales for cell adhesion as well as characteristic detachment times. We estimate force-scales of ∼500 pN associated to a single focal contact, and characteristic timescales of 190 ≤τ≤ 350 s representing cell-spread-area dependent mean first passage times to the detached state at intermediate values of the shear stress. Variations in adhesion across cell types are especially prominent when cell detachment is probed by applying a time-varying shear stress. These methods can be applied to characterizing changes in cell adhesion in a variety of contexts, including metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number046006
JournalPhysical Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • adhesion strength
  • cell de-adhesion
  • cell detachment model
  • cell shearing
  • mechanobiology

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