Mechanical forces play an important role in various physiological processes, such as morphogenesis, cytokinesis, and migration. Thus, in order to illuminate mechanisms underlying these physiological processes, it is crucial to understand how cells deform and respond to external mechanical stimuli. During recent decades, the mechanical properties of cells have been studied extensively using diverse measurement techniques. A number of experimental studies have shown that cells are far from linear elastic materials. Cells exhibit a wide variety of nonlinear elastic and inelastic properties. Such complicated properties of cells are known to emerge from unique mechanical characteristics of cellular components. In this review, we introduce major cellular components that largely govern cell mechanical properties and provide brief explanations of several experimental techniques used for rheological measurements of cell mechanics. Then, we discuss the representative nonlinear elastic and inelastic properties of cells. Finally, continuum and discrete computational models of cell mechanics, which model both nonlinear elastic and inelastic properties of cells, will be described.

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