Nanoscale monitoring of drug actions on cell membrane using atomic force microscopy

Mi LI, Lian-qing LIU LIU, Ning XI, Yue-chao WANG
DOI: 10.1038/aps.2015.28


Knowledge of the nanoscale changes that take place in individual cells in response to a drug is useful for understanding the drug action. However, due to the lack of adequate techniques, such knowledge was scarce until the advent of atomic force microscopy (AFM), which is a multifunctional tool for investigating cellular behavior with nanometer resolution under near-physiological conditions. In the past decade, researchers have applied AFM to monitor the morphological and mechanical dynamics of individual cells following drug stimulation, yielding considerable novel insight into how the drug molecules affect an individual cell at the nanoscale. In this article we summarize the representative applications of AFM in characterization of drug actions on cell membrane, including topographic imaging, elasticity measurements, molecular interaction quantification, native membrane protein imaging and manipulation, etc. The challenges that are hampering the further development of AFM for studies of cellular activities are aslo discussed.
Keywords: atomic force microscopy; single-cell technique; nanometer scale; drug-target interaction; cell mechanics; cell elasticity

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