Mechanical properties of murine hippocampal subregions investigated by atomic force microscopy and in vivo magnetic resonance elastography


  • A.S. Morr
  • M. Nowicki
  • G. Bertalan
  • R.V. Silva
  • C. Infante Duarte
  • S.P. Koch
  • P. Boehm-Sturm
  • U. Krügel
  • J. Braun
  • B. Steiner
  • J.A. Käs
  • T. Fuhs
  • I. Sack


  • Scientific Reports


  • Sci Rep 12 (1): 16723


  • The hippocampus is a very heterogeneous brain structure with different mechanical properties reflecting its functional variety. In particular, adult neurogenesis in rodent hippocampus has been associated with specific viscoelastic properties in vivo and ex vivo. Here, we study the microscopic mechanical properties of hippocampal subregions using ex vivo atomic force microscopy (AFM) in correlation with the expression of GFP in presence of the nestin promoter, providing a marker of neurogenic activity. We further use magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) to investigate whether in vivo mechanical properties reveal similar spatial patterns, however, on a much coarser scale. AFM showed that tissue stiffness increases with increasing distance from the subgranular zone (p = 0.0069), and that stiffness is 39% lower in GFP than non-GFP regions (p = 0.0004). Consistently, MRE showed that dentate gyrus is, on average, softer than Ammon's horn (shear wave speed = 3.2 ± 0.2 m/s versus 4.4 ± 0.3 m/s, p = 0.01) with another 3.4% decrease towards the subgranular zone (p = 0.0001). The marked reduction in stiffness measured by AFM in areas of high neurogenic activity is consistent with softer MRE values, indicating the sensitivity of macroscopic mechanical properties in vivo to micromechanical structures as formed by the neurogenic niche of the hippocampus.