Adhesion Frequency Assay for In Situ Kinetics Analysis of Cross-Junctional Molecular Interactions at the Cell-Cell Interface

Author: Veronika I. Zarnitsyna

Date: 11/2/2011

Journal:Journal of Visiualized Experiments


DOI: 10.3791/3519.



The micropipette adhesion assay was developed in 1998 to measure two-dimensional (2D) receptor-ligand binding kinetics. The assay uses a human red blood cell (RBC) as adhesion sensor and presenting cell for one of the interacting molecules. It employs micromanipulation to bring the RBC into contact with another cell that expresses the other interacting molecule with precisely controlled area and time to enable bond formation. The adhesion event is detected as RBC elongation upon pulling the two cells apart. By controlling the density of the ligands immobilized on the RBC surface, the probability of adhesion is kept in mid-range between 0 and 1. The adhesion probability is estimated from the frequency of adhesion events in a sequence of repeated contact cycles between the two cells for a given contact time. Varying the contact time generates a binding curve. Fitting a probabilistic model for receptor-ligand reaction kinetics to the binding curve returns the 2D affinity and off-rate. The assay has been validated using interactions of Fcγ receptors with IgG Fc, selectins with glycoconjugate ligands, integrins with ligands, homotypical cadherin binding, T cell receptor and coreceptor with peptide-major histocompatibility complexes. The method has been used to quantify regulations of 2D kinetics by biophysical factors, such as the membrane microtopology, membrane anchor, molecular orientation and length, carrier stiffness, curvature, and impingement force, as well as biochemical factors, such as modulators of the cytoskeleton and membrane microenvironment where the interacting molecules reside and the surface organization of these molecules. The method has also been used to study the concurrent binding of dual receptor-ligand species, and trimolecular interactions using a modified model. The major advantage of the method is that it allows study of receptors in their native membrane environment. The results could be very different from those obtained using purified receptors. It also allows study of the receptor-ligand interactions in a sub-second timescale with temporal resolution well beyond the typical biochemical methods. To illustrate the micropipette adhesion frequency method, we show kinetics measurement of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) functionalized on RBCs binding to integrin α(L)β(2) on neutrophils with dimeric E-selectin in the solution to activate α(L)β(2).