The spatial distribution of intermolecular forces governs macromolecular interactions. The atomic force microscope, a relatively new tool for investigating interaction forces between nanometer-scale objects, can be used to produce spatially resolved maps of the surface or material properties of a sample; these include charge density, adhesion and stiffness, as well as the force required to break specific ligand-receptor bonds. Maps such as these will provide fundamental insights into biological structure and will become an important tool for characterizing technologically important biological systems. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd.
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