Document Type


Publication Date



Collagens, Atomic force microscopy, Bending, Proteoglycans, Tendons, Laser beams, Radii, Charge-coupled devices

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Collagen fibers are the main components of the extra cellular matrix and the primary contributors to the mechanical properties of tissues. Here we report a novel approach to measure the longitudinal component of the elastic moduli of biological fibers under conditions close to those found in vivo and apply it to type I collagen from rat tail tendon. This approach combines optical tweezers, atomic force microscopy, and exploits Euler-Bernoulli elasticity theory for data analysis. This approach also avoids drying for measurements or visualization, since samples are freshly extracted. Importantly, strains are kept below 0.5%, which appear consistent with the linear elastic regime. We find, surprisingly, that the longitudinal elastic modulus of type I collagen cannot be represented by a single quantity but rather is a distribution that is broader than the uncertainty of our experimental technique. The longitudinal component of the single-fiber elastic modulus is between 100 MPa and 360 MPa for samples extracted from different rats and/or different parts of a single tail. Variations are also observed in the fibril-bundle / fibril diameter with an average of 325±40 nm. Since bending forces depend on the diameter to the fourth power, this variation in diameter is important for estimating the range of elastic moduli. The remaining variations in the modulus may be due to differences in composition of the fibril-bundles, or the extent of the proteoglycans constituting fibril-bundles, or that some single fibrils may be of fibril-bundle size.

Rights Information

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

PLoS ONE, v. 11, no. 1, art. e0145711

© 2016 Dutov et al.