A novel technique for the study of bacterial cell mechanical properties

C. Shiu, Z. Zhang, Colin Thomas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


A micromanipulation method is described for measuring the bursting forces of bacteria and relating them to cell size. At a compression speed of 6.2 μm s-1, bursting forces of three samples of rapidly growing Staphylococcus epidermis from a batch culture varied from 3 to 34 μN with an average value of 13.8μN (standard error 0.8 μN). Escherichia coli grown in continuous culture at a specific growth rate of 0.5 h-1 had bursting forces varying from 1 to 9 μN with an average value of 3.6 μN (standard error 0.4μN). In squeeze-hold experiments, force relaxation was observed, which was attributed to water loss from the cells, or viscoelasticity, or both. At high compression speed, such as 6.2 μm s-1, this relaxation could be neglected. Micromanipulation strength measurements might be used in studies of cell mechanical disruption and of the dependence of cell strength on cell physiology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-713
Number of pages7
JournalBiotechnology Techniques
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Bacteria
  • Mechanical properties
  • Micromanipulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry


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