Single-molecule force spectroscopy: optical tweezers, magnetic tweezers and atomic force microscopy

Nat Methods. 2008 Jun;5(6):491-505. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.1218.


Single-molecule force spectroscopy has emerged as a powerful tool to investigate the forces and motions associated with biological molecules and enzymatic activity. The most common force spectroscopy techniques are optical tweezers, magnetic tweezers and atomic force microscopy. Here we describe these techniques and illustrate them with examples highlighting current capabilities and limitations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biophysics / methods
  • Biotechnology / methods
  • Calibration
  • Escherichia coli
  • Kinetics
  • Magnetics*
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / instrumentation
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / methods*
  • Neodymium / chemistry
  • Optical Tweezers*
  • Radiation
  • Spectrophotometry / instrumentation
  • Spectrophotometry / methods*


  • Neodymium