Optical Imaging of Electrical and Mechanical Couplings between Cells

Wen Shi, Yunze Yang, Ming Gao, Jie Wu, Nongjian Tao, Shaopeng Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Intercellular communication plays a pivotal role in multicellular organisms. Studying the electrical and mechanical coupling among multiple cells has been a difficult task due to the lack of suitable techniques. In this study, we developed a label-free imaging method for monitoring the electrical-induced communications between connected cells. The method was based on monitoring subtle mechanical motions of the cells under electrical modulation of the membrane potential. We observed that connected cells responded to electrical modulation of neighboring cells with mechanical deformation of the membrane. We further investigated the mechanism of the coupling and confirmed that this mechanical response was induced by electrical signal communicated through the gap junction. Blocking the gap junction can temporally cease the mechanical signal, and this inhibition can be rescued after removing the inhibitor. This study sheds light on the mechanism of electrical coupling between neurons and provides a new method for studying intercellular communications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-512
Number of pages5
JournalACS sensors
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 26 2021


  • HEK293T
  • bioelectrical signal
  • cell mechanical motion
  • intercellular communication
  • optical imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Instrumentation
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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