Cell adhesion to matrix, other cells, or pathogens plays a pivotal role in many processes in biomolecular engineering. Early macroscopic methods of quantifying adhesion led to the development of quantitative models of cell adhesion and migration. The more recent use of sensitive probes to quantify the forces that alter or manipulate adhesion proteins has revealed much greater functional diversity than was apparent from population average measurements of cell adhesion. This review highlights theoretical and experimental methods that identified force-dependent molecular properties that are central to the biological activity of adhesion proteins. Experimental and theoretical methods emphasized in this review include the surface force apparatus, atomic force microscopy, and vesicle-based probes. Specific examples given illustrate how these tools have revealed unique properties of adhesion proteins and their structural origins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-389
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
StatePublished - Jul 15 2010


  • atomic force microscopy
  • catch bonds
  • nanomechanics
  • steered molecular dynamics
  • surface force apparatus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Chemistry(all)


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