Indexed on: 25 Jan '17Published on: 25 Jan '17Published in: Sensors (Basel, Switzerland)
The advent of atomic force microscopy (AFM) has provided a powerful tool for investigating the behaviors of single native biological molecules under physiological conditions. AFM can not only image the conformational changes of single biological molecules at work with sub-nanometer resolution, but also sense the specific interactions of individual molecular pair with piconewton force sensitivity. In the past decade, the performance of AFM has been greatly improved, which makes it widely used in biology to address diverse biomedical issues. Characterizing the behaviors of single molecules by AFM provides considerable novel insights into the underlying mechanisms guiding life activities, contributing much to cell and molecular biology. In this article, we review the recent developments of AFM studies in single-molecule assay. The related techniques involved in AFM single-molecule assay were firstly presented, and then the progress in several aspects (including molecular imaging, molecular mechanics, molecular recognition, and molecular activities on cell surface) was summarized. The challenges and future directions were also discussed.