The motions of magnetic particles contained within organelles of living cells were followed by measuring magnetic fields generated by the particles. The alignment of particles was sensed magnetometrically and was manipulated by external fields, allowing non-invasive detection of particle motion as well as examination of cytoplasmic viscoelasticity. Motility and rheology data are presented for pulmonary macrophages isolated from lungs of hamsters 1 d after the animals had breathed airborne gamma-Fe2O3 particles. The magnetic directions of particles within phagosomes and secondary lysosomes were aligned, and the weak magnetic field produced by the particles was recorded. For dead cells, this remanent field was constant, but for viable macrophages, the remanent field decreased rapidly so that only 42% of its initial magnitude remained 5 min after alignment. A twisting field was applied perpendicular to the direction of alignment and the rate at which particles reoriented to this new direction was followed. The same twisting was repeated for particles suspended in a series of viscosity standards. Based on this approach, the low-shear apparent intracellular viscosity was estimated to be 1.2-2.7 X 10(3) Pa.s (1.2-2.7 X 10(4) poise). Time-lapse video microscopy confirmed the alignment of ingested particles upon magnetization and showed persistent cellular motility during randomization of alignment. Cytochalasin D and low temperature both reduced cytoplasmic activity and remanent-field decay, but affected rheology differently. Magnetic particles were observed in association with the microtubule organizing center by immunofluorescence microscopy; magnetization did not affect microtubule distribution. However, both vimentin intermediate filaments and f-actin reorganized after magnetization. These data demonstrate that magnetometry of isolated phagocytic cells can probe organelle movements, rheology, and physical properties of the cytoskeleton in living cells.

This content is only available as a PDF.