Microbial cells sense and respond to their environment using their surface constituents. Therefore understanding the assembly and biophysical properties of cell surface molecules is an important research topic. With its ability to observe living microbial cells at nanometer resolution and to manipulate single-cell surface molecules, atomic force microscopy has emerged as a powerful tool in microbiology. This short review surveys major breakthroughs made in cell surface microbiology using AFM techniques, emphasizing the most recent structural and functional insights.
And while we’re on the subject of advances in microscopy:
Microscopy: Cryo-EM enters a new era. (2014) eLife 3: e03678 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.03678
The development of new detector hardware has led to a resolution revolution in electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM). This is evident from a series of striking new structures obtained by cryo-EM at near-atomic resolution: these include ribosomes from human pathogens, mitochondria, ribosomes in complex with a protein translocase, ion channels, or a key enzyme in the biogenesis of methane. The ability to solve such structures in atomic detail is an essential prerequisite for the development of novel antibiotics and drugs.