The cytoplasm of living cells behaves as a poroelastic material.
Moeendarbary E., Valon L., Fritzsche M., Harris AR., Moulding DA., Thrasher AJ., Stride E., Mahadevan L., Charras GT.
The cytoplasm is the largest part of the cell by volume and hence its rheology sets the rate at which cellular shape changes can occur. Recent experimental evidence suggests that cytoplasmic rheology can be described by a poroelastic model, in which the cytoplasm is treated as a biphasic material consisting of a porous elastic solid meshwork (cytoskeleton, organelles, macromolecules) bathed in an interstitial fluid (cytosol). In this picture, the rate of cellular deformation is limited by the rate at which intracellular water can redistribute within the cytoplasm. However, direct supporting evidence for the model is lacking. Here we directly validate the poroelastic model to explain cellular rheology at short timescales using microindentation tests in conjunction with mechanical, chemical and genetic treatments. Our results show that water redistribution through the solid phase of the cytoplasm (cytoskeleton and macromolecular crowders) plays a fundamental role in setting cellular rheology at short timescales.