Forcing a connection: impacts of single-molecule force spectroscopy on in vivo tension sensing

Biopolymers. 2011 May;95(5):332-44. doi: 10.1002/bip.21587. Epub 2011 Jan 25.


Mechanical tension plays a large role in cell development ranging from morphology to gene expression. On the molecular level, the effects of tension can be seen in the dynamic arrangement of membrane proteins as well as the recruitment and activation of intracellular proteins. Forces applied to biopolymers during in vitro force measurements offer greater understanding of the effects of tension on molecules in live cells, and experimental techniques involving test tubes and live cells can often overlap. Indeed, when forces exerted on cellular components can be calibrated ex vivo with force spectroscopy, a powerful tool is available for researchers in probing cellular mechanotransduction on the molecular scale. This review will discuss the techniques used in measuring both cellular traction forces and single-molecule force spectroscopy. Emphasis will be placed on the use of fluorescence reporter systems for the development of in vivo tension sensors that can be used for calibration with single molecule force methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopolymers / chemistry
  • Elasticity Imaging Techniques / methods
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer / methods
  • Magnetics / methods
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / methods*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Optical Tweezers
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Biopolymers