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Selective anticancer effect of Phellinus linteus on epidermoid cell lines studied by atomic force microscopy: anticancer activity on A431 cancer cells and low toxicity on HaCat normal cellsThe research on the morphological and mechanical properties of single cells has provided a crucial way of understanding the cellular physiology and metabolism. In this study, the selective anticancer effects of Phellinus linteus on A431 and HaCat cells and their morphological and mechanical properties were systematically investigated by atomic force microscopy (AFM). Notably, the cell morphology on the micronano scale was observed under both the physiological environment and immobilization conditions. The significant morphological changes of A431 cells from the flat to spherical shape, the increase of cell height, and the decrease of the particles on the cell membrane were confirmed to be related to the cell apoptosis under the treatment of the Phellinus linteus water extract (PLWE). Moreover, the small morphology variations of HaCat cells showed that the PLWE presented a high anticancer effect on A431 cells but low toxicity on HaCat cells, which indicated a potential cell selectivity between cancer and normal cells. This work proved that Phellinus linteus could be used as a potential candidate for selective anticancer treatments.