Physiological processes in cells are performed efficiently without getting jammed although cytoplasm is highly crowded with various macromolecules. Elucidating the physical machinery is challenging because the interior of a cell is so complex and driven far from equilibrium by metabolic activities. Here, we studied the mechanics of in vitro and living cytoplasm using the particle-tracking and manipulation technique. The molecular crowding effect on cytoplasmic mechanics was selectively studied by preparing simple in vitro models of cytoplasm from which both the metabolism and cytoskeletons were removed. We obtained direct evidence of the cytoplasmic glass transition; a dramatic increase in viscosity upon crowding quantitatively conformed to the super-Arrhenius formula, which is typical for fragile colloidal suspensions close to jamming. Furthermore, the glass-forming behaviors were found to be universally conserved in all the cytoplasm samples that originated from different species and developmental stages; they showed the same tendency for diverging at the macromolecule concentrations relevant for living cells. Notably, such fragile behavior disappeared in metabolically active living cells whose viscosity showed a genuine Arrhenius increase as in typical strong glass formers. Being actively driven by metabolism, the living cytoplasm forms glass that is fundamentally different from that of its non-living counterpart.
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