A procedure is proposed to measure the cytoplasmic deformation in active motile neutrophils in the form of cytoplasmic strains and strain rates. Three neighboring microspheres in a local region of the cytoplasm serve as markers for local motion. Their positions are tracked by means of a high resolution light microscope and serve to compute nonlinear measures of strains and strain rates together with the principal strains and principal directions. Active neutrophils exhibit large cytoplasmic strains both during periodic pseudopod projections and during continuous locomotion in a polarized shape. The cytoplasmic motion is often synchronized with the whole cell deformation. The local cytoplasmic strains exceed the strains estimated for the whole cell and are not reversible except in some cases of single pseudopod projections. Large strains are observed both in attached and freely suspended cells. Strain rates are relatively constant but show an increase during the pseudopod retraction phase. Local cytoplasmic strains in neutrophils are inhomogeneous and reach large values during passage of the contraction rings. Neutrophils rendered passive by treatment with cytochalasin or EDTA show a random motion of microspheres with much smaller displacements. These observations suggest that the cytoplasm of active neutrophil exhibits large cytoplasmic strains and strain rates in the absence of an external stress resulting in a high degree of intracellular mixing. The proposed technique may be applied to a wide range of problems in cell biology.

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