Viscoelastic properties of cell walls of single living plant cells determined by dynamic nanoindentation

Céline M. Hayot, Elham Forouzesh, Ashwani Goel, Zoya Avramova, Joseph A. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


Plant development results from controlled cell divisions, structural modifications, and reorganizations of the cell wall. Thereby, regulation of cell wall behaviour takes place at multiple length scales involving compositional and architectural aspects in addition to various developmental and/or environmental factors. The physical properties of the primary wall are largely determined by the nature of the complex polymer network, which exhibits time-dependent behaviour representative of viscoelastic materials. Here, a dynamic nanoindentation technique is used to measure the time-dependent response and the viscoelastic behaviour of the cell wall in single living cells at a micron or sub-micron scale. With this approach, significant changes in storage (stiffness) and loss (loss of energy) moduli are captured among the tested cells. The results reveal hitherto unknown differences in the viscoelastic parameters of the walls of same-age similarly positioned cells of the Arabidopsis ecotypes (Col 0 and Ws 2). The technique is also shown to be sensitive enough to detect changes in cell wall properties in cells deficient in the activity of the chromatin modifier ATX1. Extensive computational modelling of the experimental measurements (i.e. modelling the cell as a viscoelastic pressure vessel) is used to analyse the influence of the wall thickness, as well as the turgor pressure, at the positions of our measurements. By combining the nanoDMA technique with finite element simulations quantifiable measurements of the viscoelastic properties of plant cell walls are achieved. Such techniques are expected to find broader applications in quantifying the influence of genetic, biological, and environmental factors on the nanoscale mechanical properties of the cell wall.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2525-2540
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of experimental botany
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Computational modelling
  • mechanical properties
  • nanomechanics
  • single cell measurements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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