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  • Open Access

Force and compliance measurements on living cells using atomic force microscopy (AFM)

Biological Procedures Online6:610001

  • Received: 23 September 2003
  • Accepted: 10 December 2003


We describe the use of atomic force microscopy (AFM) in studies of cell adhesion and cell compliance. Our studies use the interaction between leukocyte function associated antigen-1 (LFA-1)/intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) as a model system. The forces required to unbind a single LFA-1/ICAM-1 bond were measured at different loading rates. This data was used to determine the dynamic strength of the LFA-1/ICAM-1 complex and characterize the activation potential that this complex overcomes during its breakage. Force measurements acquired at the multiple- bond level provided insight about the mechanism of cell adhesion. In addition, the AFM was used as a microindenter to determine the mechanical properties of cells. The applications of these methods are described using data from a previous study.

Indexing terms

  • Cell adhesion
  • Leukocytes
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force