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J Cell Sci. 2008 Jun 1;121(11):1785-91. doi: 10.1242/jcs.030999.

Single-cell force spectroscopy.

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Biotechnology Center, University of Technology Dresden, Germany.


The controlled adhesion of cells to each other and to the extracellular matrix is crucial for tissue development and maintenance. Numerous assays have been developed to quantify cell adhesion. Among these, the use of atomic force microscopy (AFM) for single-cell force spectroscopy (SCFS) has recently been established. This assay permits the adhesion of living cells to be studied in near-physiological conditions. This implementation of AFM allows unrivaled spatial and temporal control of cells, as well as highly quantitative force actuation and force measurement that is sufficiently sensitive to characterize the interaction of single molecules. Therefore, not only overall cell adhesion but also the properties of single adhesion-receptor-ligand interactions can be studied. Here we describe current implementations and applications of SCFS, as well as potential pitfalls, and outline how developments will provide insight into the forces, energetics and kinetics of cell-adhesion processes.

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