Atomic force microscopy (AFM) has evolved from the originally morphological imaging technique to a powerful and multifunctional technique for manipulating and detecting the interactions between molecules at nanometer resolution. However, AFM cannot provide the precise information of synchronized molecular groups and has many shortcomings in the aspects of determining the mechanism of the interactions and the elaborate structure due to the limitations of the technology, itself, such as non-specificity and low imaging speed. To overcome the technical limitations, it is necessary to combine AFM with other complementary techniques, such as fluorescence microscopy. The combination of several complementary techniques in one instrument has increasingly become a vital approach to investigate the details of the interactions among molecules and molecular dynamics. In this review, we reported the principles of AFM and optical microscopy, such as confocal microscopy and single-molecule localization microscopy, and focused on the development and use of correlative AFM and optical microscopy.
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