How did correlative atomic force microscopy and super-resolution microscopy evolve in the quest for unravelling enigmas in biology?
With the invention of the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) in 1986 and the subsequent developments in liquid imaging and cellular imaging it became possible to study the topography of cellular specimens under nearly physiological conditions with nanometric resolution. The application of AFM to biological research was further expanded with the technological advances in imaging modes where topographical data can be combined with nanomechanical measurements, offering the possibility to retrieve the biophysical properties of tissues, cells, fibrous components and biomolecules. Meanwhile, the quest for breaking the Abbe diffraction limit restricting microscopic resolution led to the development of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy techniques that brought the resolution of the light microscope comparable to the resolution obtained by AFM. The instrumental combination of AFM and optical microscopy techniques has evolved over the last decades from integration of AFM with bright-field and phase-contrast imaging techniques at first to correlative AFM and wide-field fluorescence systems and then further to the combination of AFM and fluorescence based super-resolution microscopy modalities. Motivated by the many developments made over the last decade, we provide here a review on AFM combined with super-resolution fluorescence microscopy techniques and how they can be applied for expanding our understanding of biological processes.