Size, Kinetics, and Free Energy of Clusters Formed by Ultraweak Carbohydrate-Carbohydrate Bonds

Hannes Witt, Filip Savić, Marieelen Oelkers, Shahid I. Awan, Daniel B. Werz, Burkhard Geil, Andreas Janshoff*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Weak noncovalent intermolecular interactions play a pivotal role in many biological processes such as cell adhesion or immunology, where the overall binding strength is controlled through bond association and dissociation dynamics as well as the cooperative action of many parallel bonds. Among the various molecules participating in weak bonds, carbohydrate-carbohydrate interactions are probably the most ancient ones allowing individual cells to reversibly enter the multicellular state and to tell apart self and nonself cells. Here, we scrutinized the kinetics and thermodynamics of small homomeric Lewis X-Lewis X ensembles formed in the contact zone of a membrane-coated colloidal probe and a solid supported membrane ensuring minimal nonspecific background interactions. We used an atomic force microscope to measure force distance curves at Piconewton resolution, which allowed us to measure the force due to unbinding of the colloidal probe and the planar membrane as a function of contact time. Applying a contact model, we could estimate the free binding energy of the formed adhesion cluster as a function of dwell time and thereby determine the precise size of the contact zone, the number of participating bonds, and the intrinsic rates of association and dissociation in the presence of calcium ions. The unbinding energy per bond was found to be on the order of 1 kBT. Approximately 30 bonds were opened simultaneously at an off-rate of koff = 7 ± 0.2 s-1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1582-1592
Number of pages11
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


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