We investigated the role of receptor binding affinity in surface adhesion. A sensitive technique was developed to measure the surface energy of receptor-mediated adhesion. The experimental system involved a functionalized elastic agarose bead resting on a functionalized glass coverslip. Attractive intersurface forces pulled the two surfaces together, deforming the bead to produce an enlarged contact area. The Johnson-Kendall- Roberts (JKR) model was used to relate the surface energy of the interaction to the elasticity of the bead and the area of contact. The surface energies for different combinations of modified surfaces in solution were obtained from reflection interference contrast microscopy (RICM) measurements of the contact area formed by the bead and the coverslip. Studies with surfaces functionalized with ligand-receptor pairs showed that the relationship between surface energy and the association constant of the ligand binding has two regimes. At low binding affinity, surface energy increased linearly with the association constant, while surface energy increased logarithmically with the association constant in the high affinity regime.
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