Chemical pretreatment is widely used to facilitate transformation of living cells when foreign components are introduced into a cell through the cell wall. The influence of appropriate chemicals on the wall properties and mechanism of transformation is still a matter of intensive studies. Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells (also known as baker's yeast) were investigated by atomic force microscopy (AFM). The cell walls were modified by lithium acetate and dithiothreitol. The AFM imaging was performed in liquid water-based environment. The living cells were fixed by trapping into the holes of a polycarbonate membrane. Mechanical and morphological properties of initial intact cells and treated cells were investigated. The increased stiffness of the chemically treated cells was observed. As deduced from the applied theoretical Hertz-Sneddon model, the treated cells show completely different response mechanism to applied mechanical pressure in comparison with the intact cells. Also, the increased roughness of the cell wall of the treated yeasts was observed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.