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Langmuir. 2007 Mar 27;23(7):3654-65. Epub 2007 Feb 28.

Surface forces and drag coefficients of microspheres near a plane surface measured with optical tweezers.

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Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Pfotenhauerstrasse 108, 01307 Dresden, Germany.


Optical tweezers are widely used to measure molecular forces in biology. Such measurements are often influenced by a nearby surface that can perturb both the calibration of the tweezers as well as the hydrodynamic forces acting on microspheres to which the biomolecules are attached. In this study, we have used a very stable optical tweezers setup employing a recently developed calibration method (Tolić-Nørrelykke, S. F.; Schäffer, E.; Howard, J.; Pavone, F. S.; Jülicher, F.; Flyvbjerg, H. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 2006, 77 (10), 103101) to determine how the calibration of the tweezers and the forces on the microspheres depend on the height above the surface. We show that the displacement sensitivity of the tweezers is modulated by a standing light wave between the microsphere and the surface. We measured the dependence of the drag coefficient on height and compared it to exact and closed-form solutions to the Navier-Stokes equations. Also, we measured the surface force gradients in different salt solutions and for different surface blocking methods. For a given blocking method, our data suggest that microspheres can experience attractive and/or repulsive forces close to surfaces. For example, a Teflon layer reduces attractive interactions, and the presence of casein can lead to long-range repulsive interactions. These measurements are a prerequisite for the accurate measurement of normal forces with respect to an interface that occur in biological molecules held between surfaces.

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