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Biophys J. 2012 Feb 8;102(3):682-90. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2011.12.019. Epub 2012 Feb 7.

Unequivocal single-molecule force spectroscopy of proteins by AFM using pFS vectors.

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  • 1Instituto Cajal/CSIC, Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red sobre Enfermedades Neurodegenerativas, IMDEA Nanociencia, Madrid, Spain.


Nanomechanical analysis of proteins by single-molecule force spectroscopy based on atomic force microscopy is increasingly being used to investigate the inner workings of mechanical proteins and substrate proteins of unfoldase machines as well as to gain new insight into the process of protein folding. However, such studies are hindered by a number of technical problems, including the noise of the proximal region, ambiguous single-molecule identification, as well as difficulties in protein expression/folding and full-length purification. To overcome these major drawbacks in protein nanomechanics, we designed a family of cloning/expression vectors, termed pFS (plasmid for force spectroscopy), that essentially has an unstructured region to surmount the noisy proximal region, a homomeric polyprotein marker, a carrier to mechanically protect the protein of interest (only the pFS-2 version) that also acts as a reporter, and two purification tags. pFS-2 enables the unambiguous analysis of proteins with low mechanical stability or/and complex force spectra, such as the increasingly abundant class of intrinsically disordered proteins, which are hard to characterize by traditional bulk techniques and have important biological and clinical implications. The advantages, applications, and potential of this ready-to-go system are illustrated through the analysis of representative proteins.

Copyright © 2012 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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