Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology (May 2021)

AFM-Based Correlative Microscopy Illuminates Human Pathogens

  • Supriya V. Bhat,
  • Jared D. W. Price,
  • Tanya E. S. Dahms

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11


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Microbes have an arsenal of virulence factors that contribute to their pathogenicity. A number of challenges remain to fully understand disease transmission, fitness landscape, antimicrobial resistance and host heterogeneity. A variety of tools have been used to address diverse aspects of pathogenicity, from molecular host-pathogen interactions to the mechanisms of disease acquisition and transmission. Current gaps in our knowledge include a more direct understanding of host-pathogen interactions, including signaling at interfaces, and direct phenotypic confirmation of pathogenicity. Correlative microscopy has been gaining traction to address the many challenges currently faced in biomedicine, in particular the combination of optical and atomic force microscopy (AFM). AFM, generates high-resolution surface topographical images, and quantifies mechanical properties at the pN scale under physiologically relevant conditions. When combined with optical microscopy, AFM probes pathogen surfaces and their physical and molecular interaction with host cells, while the various modes of optical microscopy view internal cellular responses of the pathogen and host. Here we review the most recent advances in our understanding of pathogens, recent applications of AFM to the field, how correlative AFM-optical microspectroscopy and microscopy have been used to illuminate pathogenicity and how these methods can reach their full potential for studying host-pathogen interactions.