Cellular Analysis by Atomic Force Microscopy
Thesis DisciplineElectrical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Exocytosis is a fundamental cellular process where membrane-bound secretory granules from within the cell fuse with the plasma membrane to form fusion pore openings through which they expel their contents. This mechanism occurs constitutively in all eukaryotic cells and is responsible for the regulation of numerous bodily functions. Despite intensive study on exocytosis the fusion pore is poorly understood. In this research micro-fabrication techniques were integrated with biology to facilitate the study of fusion pores from cells in the anterior pituitary using the atomic force microscope (AFM). In one method cells were chemically fixed to reveal a diverse range of pore morphologies, which were characterised according to generic descriptions and compared to those in literature. The various pore topographies potentially illustrates different fusion mechanisms or artifacts caused from the impact of chemicals and solvents in distorting dynamic cellular events. Studies were performed to investigate changes in fusion pores in response to stimuli along with techniques designed to image membrane topography with nanometre resolution. To circumvent some deficiencies in traditional chemical fixation methodologies, a Bioimprint replication process was designed to create molecular imprints of cells using imprinting and soft moulding techniques with photo and thermal activated elastomers. Motivation for the transfer of cellular ultrastructure was to enable the non-destructive analysis of cells using the AFM while avoiding the need for chemical fixation. Cell replicas produced accurate images of membrane topology and contained certain fusion pore types similar to those in chemically fixed cells. However, replicas were often dehydrated and overall experiments testing stimuli responses were inconclusive. In a preliminary investigation, a soft replication moulding technique using a PDMS-elastomer was tested on human endometrial cancer cells with the aim of highlighting malignant mutations. Finally, a Biochip comprised of a series of interdigitated microelectrodes was used to position single-cells within an array of cavities using positive and negative dielectrophoresis (DEP). Selective sites either between or on the electrode were exposed as cavities designed to trap and incubate pituitary and cancer cells for analysis by atomic force microscopy (AFMy). Results achieved trapping of pituitary and cancer cells within cavities and demonstrated that positive DEP could be used as a force to effectively position living cells. AFM images of replicas created from cells trapped within cavities illustrated the advantage of integrating the Biochip with Bioimprint for cellular analysis.