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Methods Enzymol. 2010;475:515-39. doi: 10.1016/S0076-6879(10)75019-9.

Atomic force microscopy studies of human rhinovirus topology and molecular forces.

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Institute for Biophysics, Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Linz, Austria.


Dynamic force microscopy (DFM) allows for imaging of the structure and assessment of the function of biological specimens in their physiological environment. In DFM, the cantilever is oscillated at a given frequency and touches the sample only at the end of its downward movement. Accordingly, the problem of lateral forces displacing or even destroying biomolecules is virtually inexistent as the contact time and friction forces are greatly reduced. Here, we describe the use of DFM in studies of human rhinovirus serotype 2 (HRV2). The capsid of HRV2 was reproducibly imaged without any displacement of the virus. Release of the genomic RNA from the virions was initiated by exposure to low-pH buffer and snapshots of the extrusion process were obtained. DFM of the single-stranded RNA genome of an HRV showed loops protruding from a condensed RNA core, 20-50 nm in height. The mechanical rigidity of the RNA was determined by single molecule pulling experiments. From fitting RNA stretching curves to the worm-like-chain (WLC) model a persistence length of 1.0+/-0.17 nm was obtained.

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