Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Discovery to aid study of biological structures, molecules

Researchers in the United States and Spain have discovered that an atomic force microscope - a tool widely used in nanoscale imaging - works differently in watery environments, a step toward better using the instrument to study biological molecules and structures. The researchers demonstrated their new understanding of how the instrument works in water to show details of the mechanical properties of a virus called Phi29. The images in "a" and "c" show the topography, and the image in "b" shows the different stiffness properties of the balloonlike head, stiff collar and hollow tail of the Phi29 virus, called a bacteriophage because it infects bacteria. (C. Carrasco-Pulido, P. J. de Pablo, J. Gomez-Herrero, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain)
Researchers in the United States and Spain have discovered that an atomic force microscope - a tool widely used in nanoscale imaging - works differently in watery environments, a step toward better using the instrument to study biological molecules and structures. The researchers demonstrated their new understanding of how the instrument works in water to show details of the mechanical properties of a virus called Phi29. The images in "a" and "c" show the topography, and the image in "b" shows the different stiffness properties of the balloonlike head, stiff collar and hollow tail of the Phi29 virus, called a bacteriophage because it infects bacteria. (C. Carrasco-Pulido, P. J. de Pablo, J. Gomez-Herrero, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain)

Abstract:
Origins of Phase Contrast in the Atomic Force Microscope in Liquids

John Melchera, Carolina Carrascob,c, Xin Xua, José L. Carrascosad, Julio Gómez-Herrerob,
Pedro José de Pablob, and Arvind Ramana

(a) School of Mechanical Engineering and Birck Nanotechnology Center, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907; (b) Departamento de Física de la Materia Condensada C-III, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, 28049 Madrid, Spain; (c) Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid, Centro National de Biotecnología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 28049 Madrid, Spain; (d) Departmento de Estructura de Macomoléculas, Centro National de Biotecnología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 28049 Madrid, Spain

We study the physical origins of phase contrast in dynamic atomic force microscopy (dAFM) in liquids where low-stiffness microcantilever probes are often used for nanoscale imaging of soft biological samples with gentle forces. Under these conditions, we show that the phase contrast derives primarily from a unique energy flow channel that opens up in liquids due to the momentary excitation of higher eigenmodes. Contrary to the common assumption, phase-contrast images in liquids using soft microcantilevers are often maps of short-range conservative interactions, such as local elastic response, rather than tip-sample dissipation. The theory is used to demonstrate variations in local elasticity of purple membrane and bacteriophage _29 virions in buffer solutions using the phase-contrast images.

Discovery to aid study of biological structures, molecules

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN | Posted on August 11th, 2009

Researchers in the United States and Spain have discovered that a tool widely used in nanoscale imaging works differently in watery environments, a step toward better using the instrument to study biological molecules and structures.

The researchers demonstrated their new understanding of how the instrument - the atomic force microscope - works in water to show detailed properties of a bacterial membrane and a virus called Phi29, said Arvind Raman, a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering.

"People using this kind of instrument to study biological structures need to know how it works in the natural watery environments of molecules and how to interpret images," he said.

An atomic force microscope uses a tiny vibrating probe to yield information about materials and surfaces on the scale of nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Because the instrument enables scientists to "see" objects far smaller than possible using light microscopes, it could be ideal for studying molecules, cell membranes and other biological structures.

The best way to study such structures is in their wet, natural environments. However, the researchers have now discovered that in some respects the vibrating probe's tip behaves the opposite in water as it does in air, said Purdue mechanical engineering doctoral student John Melcher.

Purdue researchers collaborated with scientists at three institutions in Madrid, Spain: Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid and the Centro Nacional de Biotecnología.

Findings, which were detailed in a paper appearing online last week in the U.S. publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are related to the subtle differences in how the instrument's probe vibrates. The probe is caused to oscillate by a vibrating source at its base. However, the tip of the probe oscillates slightly out of synch with the oscillations at the base. This difference in oscillation is referred to as a "phase contrast," and the tip is said to be out of phase with the base.

Although these differences in phase contrast reveal information about the composition of the material being studied, data can't be properly interpreted unless researchers understand precisely how the phase changes in water as well as in air, Raman said.

If the instrument is operating in air, the tip's phase lags slightly when interacting with a viscous material and advances slightly when scanning over a hard surface. Now researchers have learned the tip operates in the opposite manner when used in water: it lags while passing over a hard object and advances when scanning the gelatinous surface of a biological membrane.

Researchers deposited the membrane and viruses on a sheet of mica. Tests showed the differing properties of the inner and outer sides of the membrane and details about the latticelike protein structure of the membrane. Findings also showed the different properties of the balloonlike head, stiff collar and hollow tail of the Phi29 virus, called a bacteriophage because it infects bacteria.

"The findings suggest that phase contrast in liquids can be used to reveal rapidly the intrinsic variations in local stiffness with molecular resolution, for example, by showing that the head and the collar of an individual virus particle have different stiffness," Raman said.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and was conducted at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue's Discovery Park. The biological membrane images were taken at Purdue, and the virus studies were performed at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

The paper was authored by Melcher; Carolina Carrasco, a postdoctoral researcher at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and the Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid; Purdue postdoctoral researcher Xin Xu; José L. Carrasco, a researcher at Departmento de Estructura de Macomoléculas, Centro Nacional de Biotecnología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas; Julio Gómez-Herrero and Pedro José de Pablo, both researchers from Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; and Raman.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Writer: Emil Venere
(765) 494-4709


Sources: Arvind Raman
(765) 494-5733


John Melcher


Purdue News Service
(765) 494-2096

Copyright © Purdue University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Squeezing light at the nanoscale: Ultra-confined light could detect harmful molecules June 17th, 2018

Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials: The new method adds to the understanding of the fundamental laws governing the interaction of electrons and light June 15th, 2018

Tripling the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries: Scientists have synthesized a new cathode material from iron fluoride that surpasses the capacity limits of traditional lithium-ion batteries June 14th, 2018

Nickel ferrite promotes capacity and cycle stability of lithium-sulfur battery June 13th, 2018

Imaging

New optical sensor can determine if molecules are left or right 'handed' June 13th, 2018

Nano-saturn: Supramolecular complex formation: Anthracene macrocycle and C60 fullerene June 8th, 2018

Scientists use photonic chip to make virtual movies of molecular motion June 6th, 2018

Nanomedicine

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Graphene carpets: So neurons communicate better: Research by SISSA reveals that graphene can strengthen neuronal activity, confirming the unique properties of this nanomaterial. The study has been published on Nature Nanotechnology June 13th, 2018

New optical sensor can determine if molecules are left or right 'handed' June 13th, 2018

A nanotech sensor that turns molecular fingerprints into bar codes June 7th, 2018

Discoveries

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Squeezing light at the nanoscale: Ultra-confined light could detect harmful molecules June 17th, 2018

Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials: The new method adds to the understanding of the fundamental laws governing the interaction of electrons and light June 15th, 2018

Tripling the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries: Scientists have synthesized a new cathode material from iron fluoride that surpasses the capacity limits of traditional lithium-ion batteries June 14th, 2018

Announcements

Camouflaged nanoparticles used to deliver killer protein to cancer June 17th, 2018

Squeezing light at the nanoscale: Ultra-confined light could detect harmful molecules June 17th, 2018

Physicists devise method to reveal how light affects materials: The new method adds to the understanding of the fundamental laws governing the interaction of electrons and light June 15th, 2018

Tripling the Energy Storage of Lithium-Ion Batteries: Scientists have synthesized a new cathode material from iron fluoride that surpasses the capacity limits of traditional lithium-ion batteries June 14th, 2018

Tools

Nanometrics Updates Time of Webcast at Stifel 2018 Cross Sector Insight Conference June 12th, 2018

Nano-saturn: Supramolecular complex formation: Anthracene macrocycle and C60 fullerene June 8th, 2018

Detecting the birth and death of a phonon June 7th, 2018

Scientists use photonic chip to make virtual movies of molecular motion June 6th, 2018

Research partnerships

Evidence for a new property of quantum matter revealed: Electrical dipole activity detected in a quantum material unlike any other tested June 11th, 2018

Scientists use photonic chip to make virtual movies of molecular motion June 6th, 2018

Quantum Interference May Be Key to Smaller Insulators: Breakthrough could jumpstart further miniaturization of transistors June 6th, 2018

Tunable diamond string may hold key to quantum memory: A process similar to guitar tuning improves storage time of quantum memory May 24th, 2018

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project