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Cardiomyocytes sense and shape their mechanical environment, contributing to its dynamics by their passive and active mechanical properties. While axial forces generated by contracting cardiomyocytes have been amply investigated, the corresponding radial mechanics remain poorly characterized. Our aim is to simultaneously monitor passive and active forces, both axially and radially, in cardiomyocytes freshly isolated from adult mouse ventricles. To do so, we combine a carbon fibre (CF) set-up with a custom-made atomic force microscope (AFM). CF allows us to apply stretch and to record passive and active forces in the axial direction. The AFM, modified for frontal access to fit in CF, is used to characterize radial cell mechanics. We show that stretch increases the radial elastic modulus of cardiomyocytes. We further find that during contraction, cardiomyocytes generate radial forces that are reduced, but not abolished, when cells are forced to contract near isometrically. Radial forces may contribute to ventricular wall thickening during contraction, together with the dynamic re-orientation of cells and sheetlets in the myocardium. This new approach for characterizing cell mechanics allows one to obtain a more detailed picture of the balance of axial and radial mechanics in cardiomyocytes at rest, during stretch, and during contraction. This article is part of the theme issue 'The cardiomyocyte: new revelations on the interplay between architecture and function in growth, health, and disease'.

Original publication




Journal article


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Publication Date





AFM, active forces, cardiomyocytes, elastic modulus, stiffness, stretch, Animals, Carbon Fiber, Mice, Microscopy, Atomic Force, Myocytes, Cardiac