• atomic force microscope;
  • force mapping;
  • cell wall polysaccharides;
  • mannan;
  • concanavalin A;
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae

Functionalized atomic force microscope tips were used to sense specific forces of interaction between ligand—receptor pairs and to map the positions of polysaccharides on a living microbial cell surface. Gold-coated tips were functionalized with concanavalin A using a cross-linker with a spacer arm of 15.6Å. It was possible to measure the binding force between concanavalin A and mannan polymers on the yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) cell surface. This force ranged from 75 to 200pN. The shape of the force curve indicated that the polymers were pulled away from the cell surface for a fairly long distance that sometimes reached several hundred nanometres. The distribution of mannan on the cell surface was mapped by carrying out the force measurement in the force volume mode of atomic force microscopy (AFM). During the measurement, the maximum cantilever deflection after contact between the tip and the sample was kept constant at 10nm using trigger mode to keep the pressing force on the sample surface as gently as possible at a force of 180pN. This regime was used to minimize the non-specific adhesion between the tip and the cell surface. Specific molecular recognition events took place on specific areas of the cell surface that could be interpreted as reflecting a non-uniform distribution of mannan on the cell surface.