Single-Molecule Force Spectroscopy: Experiments, Analysis, and Simulations

  • Fidan Sumbul
  • Felix RicoEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1886)


The mechanical properties of cells and of subcellular components are important to obtain a mechanistic molecular understanding of biological processes. The quantification of mechanical resistance of cells and biomolecules using biophysical methods matured thanks to the development of nanotechnologies such as optical and magnetic tweezers, the biomembrane force probe, and atomic force microscopy (AFM). The quantitative nature of force spectroscopy measurements has converted AFM into a valuable tool in biophysics. Force spectroscopy allows the determination of the forces required to unfold protein domains and to disrupt individual receptor/ligand bonds. Molecular simulations as a computational microscope allow investigation of similar biological processes with an atomistic detail. In this chapter, we first provide a step-by-step protocol of force spectroscopy experiments using AFM, including sample preparation, measurements, and analysis and interpretation of the resulting dynamic force spectrum in terms of available theories. Next, we present the background for molecular dynamics (MD) simulations focusing on steered molecular dynamics (SMD) and the importance of bridging computational tools with experimental techniques.

Key words

Dynamic force spectroscopy Atomic force microscopy Steered molecular dynamics simulations Receptor–ligand interactions 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LAI, Aix-Marseille Université, INSERM UMR_S 1067, CNRS UMR 7333MarseilleFrance

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