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Nat Struct Biol. 2000 Sep;7(9):715-8.

Observing single biomolecules at work with the atomic force microscope.

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M.E. Müller Institute for Structural Biology, Biozentrum, CH-4056 Basel, Switzerland.


Progress in the application of the atomic force microscope (AFM) to imaging and manipulating biomolecules is the result of improved instrumentation, sample preparation methods and image acquisition conditions. Biological membranes can be imaged in their native state at a lateral resolution of 0.5-1 nm and a vertical resolution of 0. 1-0.2 nm. Conformational changes that are related to functions can be resolved to a similar resolution, complementing atomic structure data acquired by other methods. The unique capability of the AFM to directly observe single proteins in their native environments provides insights into the interactions of proteins that form functional assemblies. In addition, single molecule force spectroscopy combined with single molecule imaging provides unprecedented possibilities for analyzing intramolecular and intermolecular forces. This review discusses recent examples that illustrate the power of AFM.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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