Florian Hörner, Robert Meissner, Sruthi Polali, Jana Pfeiffer, Timo Betz, Cornelia Denz, Erez Raz
Understanding embryonic development requires the characterization of the forces and the mechanical features that shape cells and tissues within the organism. In addition, experimental application of forces on cells and altering cell and organelle shape allows determining the role such forces play in morphogenesis. Here, we present a holographic optical tweezers-based new microscopic platform for in vivo applications in the context of a developing vertebrate embryo that unlike currently used setups allows simultaneous trapping of multiple objects and rapid comparisons of viscoelastic properties in different locations. This non-invasive technique facilitates a dynamic analysis of mechanical properties of cells and tissues without intervening with embryonic development. We demonstrate the application of this platform for manipulating organelle shape and for characterizing the mechanobiological properties of cells in live zebrafish embryos. The method of holographic optical tweezers as described here is of general interest and can be easily transferred to studying a range of developmental processes in zebrafish, thereby establishing a versatile platform for similar investigations in other organisms.