Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering

, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp 312–326 | Cite as

From Single Molecules to Living Cells: Nanomechanical Measurements of Cell Adhesion

  • Deborah LeckbandEmail author
Molecular Interactions


This review highlights complementary force probe techniques and illustrates how these approaches provide different, but complementary insight into molecular mechanisms of cell adhesion. As a model system, we focus on classical cadherins, which mediate cell–cell adhesion in all solid tissues. The experimental approaches described probe cadherin binding from single molecules to cells, and quantify the kinetics, energetics, and mechanical strengths of cadherin-mediated adhesive contacts. The cumulative findings of these complementary studies reveal complexities of the cadherin binding mechanism, and quantify relevant bond parameters. Importantly these different approaches demonstrate how the strengths and kinetics of cadherin bonds at the single molecule level govern the initial dynamics of adhesion between living cells. The findings also exemplify the capacity of these different force probe techniques to identify novel properties of molecular interactions governing biological adhesion.


Cadherin Cell adhesion Single bond rupture Surface force apparatus Micropipette manipulation Biphasic kinetics Molecular mechanics 



This work was supported by 2RO1 NIH GM51338.

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Copyright information

© Biomedical Engineering Society 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Center for Biophysics and Computational BiologyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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