Single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) is an emerging tool to investigate mechanical properties of biomolecules and their responses to mechanical forces, and one of the most-used techniques for mechanical manipulation is the atomic force microscope (AFM). AFM was invented as an imaging tool which can be used to image biomolecules in sub-molecular resolution in physiological conditions. It can also be used as a molecular force probe for applying mechanical forces on biomolecules. In this brief review, we will provide exciting examples from recent literature which show how the advances in AFM have enabled us to gain deep insights into mechanical properties and mechanobiology of biomolecules. AFM has been applied to study mechanical properties of cells, tissues, microorganisms, viruses as well as biological macromolecules such as proteins. It has found applications in biomedical fields like cancer biology, where it has been used both in the diagnostic phases as well as drug discovery. AFM has been able to answer questions pertaining to mechanosensing by neurons, and mechanical changes in viruses during infection by the viral particles as well as the fundamental processes such as cell division. Fundamental questions related to protein folding have also been answered by SMFS like determination of energy landscape properties of variety of proteins and their correlation with their biological functions. A multipronged approach is needed to diversify the research, as a combination with optical spectroscopy and computer-based steered molecular dynamic simulations along with SMFS can help us gain further insights into the field of biophysics and modern biology.

You do not currently have access to this content.