Measuring cell adhesion forces with the atomic force microscope at the molecular level


In the past 25 years many techniques have been developed to characterize cell adhesion and to quantify adhesion forces. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has been used to measure forces in the pico-newton range, an experimental technique known as force spectroscopy. We modified such an AFM to measure adhesion forces between live cells or between cells and surfaces. This strategy required functionalizing the surface of the sensors for immobilizing the cell. We used Dictyostelium discoideum cells which respond to starvation by surface expression of the adhesion molecule csA and consequent aggregation to measure the adhesion force of a single csA-csA bond. Relevant experimental parameters include the duration of contact between the interacting surfaces, the force against which this contact is maintained, the number and specificity of interacting adhesion molecules and the constituents of the medium in which the interaction occurs. This technology also permits the measurement of the viscoelastic properties of single cells or cell layers. Copyright (C) 2002 S, Karger AG, Basel

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