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Biophys J. 1997 Mar;72(3):1396-403.

Manipulation of individual viruses: friction and mechanical properties.

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Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599, USA.


We present our results on the manipulation of individual viruses using an advanced interface for atomic force microscopes (AFMs). We show that the viruses can be dissected, rotated, and translated with great facility. We interpret the behavior of tobacco mosaic virus with a mechanical model that makes explicit the competition between sample-substrate lateral friction and the flexural rigidity of the manipulated object. The manipulation behavior of tobacco mosaic virus on graphite is shown to be consistent with values of lateral friction observed on similar interfaces and the flexural rigidity expected for macromolecular assemblies. The ability to manipulate individual samples broadens the scope of possible studies by providing a means for positioning samples at specific binding sites or predefined measuring devices. The mechanical model provides a framework for interpreting quantitative measurements of virus binding and mechanical properties and for understanding the constraints on the successful, nondestructive AFM manipulation of delicate samples.

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