Aggregation of yeast cells: direct measurement of discrete lectin-carbohydrate interactions

Microbiology (Reading). 2003 Oct;149(Pt 10):2873-2878. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.26431-0.


Aggregation of microbial cells mediated by specific interactions plays a pivotal role in the natural environment, in medicine and in biotechnological processes. Here we used atomic force microscopy (AFM) to measure individual lectin-carbohydrate interactions involved in the flocculation of yeast cells, an aggregation event of crucial importance in fermentation technology. AFM probes functionalized with oligoglucose carbohydrates were used to record force-distance curves on living yeast cells at a rate of 0.5 micro m s(-1). Flocculating cells showed adhesion forces of 121+/-53 pN, reflecting the specific interaction between individual cell-surface lectins and glucose residues. Similar adhesion forces, 117+/-41 pN, were measured using probes functionalized with the lectin concanavalin A and attributed to specific binding to cell-surface mannose residues. By contrast, specific interaction forces were not observed in non-flocculating conditions, i.e. in the presence of mannose or when using non-flocculating cells, pointing to their involvement in yeast flocculation. The single molecule force spectroscopy measurements presented here provide a means to study a variety of cellular interactions at the molecular level, such as the adhesion of bacteria to animal and plant tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Flocculation
  • Lectins / metabolism*
  • Mannose / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Saccharomyces / cytology*
  • Saccharomyces / metabolism


  • Lectins
  • Mannose