Background: Noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) now regularly produces atomic-resolution images on a wide range of surfaces, and has demonstrated the capability for atomic manipulation solely using chemical forces. Nonetheless, the role of the tip apex in both imaging and manipulation remains poorly understood and is an active area of research both experimentally and theoretically. Recent work employing specially functionalised tips has provided additional impetus to elucidating the role of the tip apex in the observed contrast.
Results: We present an analysis of the influence of the tip apex during imaging of the Si(100) substrate in ultra-high vacuum (UHV) at 5 K using a qPlus sensor for noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM). Data demonstrating stable imaging with a range of tip apexes, each with a characteristic imaging signature, have been acquired. By imaging at close to zero applied bias we eliminate the influence of tunnel current on the force between tip and surface, and also the tunnel-current-induced excitation of silicon dimers, which is a key issue in scanning probe studies of Si(100).
Conclusion: A wide range of novel imaging mechanisms are demonstrated on the Si(100) surface, which can only be explained by variations in the precise structural configuration at the apex of the tip. Such images provide a valuable resource for theoreticians working on the development of realistic tip structures for NC-AFM simulations. Force spectroscopy measurements show that the tip termination critically affects both the short-range force and dissipated energy.
force spectroscopy; image contrast; noncontact AFM; qPlus; Si(001); Si(100); tip (apex) structure
Stable hydrocarbon radicals are able to withstand ambient
Their combination with a supporting surface is a promising route toward
novel functionalities or carbon-based magnetic systems. This will
remain elusive until the interplay of radical–radical interactions
and interface effects is fundamentally explored. We employ the tip
of a low-temperature scanning tunneling microscope as a local probe
in combination with density functional theory calculations to investigate
with atomic precision the electronic and geometric effects of a weakly
interacting metal support on an archetypal hydrocarbon radical model
system, i.e., the exceptionally stable spin-1/2 radical α,γ-bisdiphenylene-β-phenylallyl
(BDPA). Our study demonstrates the self-assembly of stable and regular
one- and two-dimensional radical clusters on the Au(111) surface.
Different types of geometric configurations are found to result from
the interplay between the highly anisotropic radical–radical
interactions and interface effects. We investigate the interaction
mechanisms underlying the self-assembly processes and utilize the
different configurations as a geometric design parameter to demonstrate
energy shifts of up to 0.6 eV of the radicals’ frontier molecular
orbitals responsible for their electronic, magnetic, and chemical
Noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) is being increasingly used to measure the interaction force between an atomically sharp probe tip and surfaces of interest, as a function of the three spatial dimensions, with picometer and piconewton accuracy. Since the results of such measurements may be affected by piezo nonlinearities, thermal and electronic drift, tip asymmetries, and elastic deformation of the tip apex, these effects need to be considered during image interpretation.
In this paper, we analyze their impact on the acquired data, compare different methods to record atomic-resolution surface force fields, and determine the approaches that suffer the least from the associated artifacts. The related discussion underscores the idea that since force fields recorded by using NC-AFM always reflect the properties of both the sample and the probe tip, efforts to reduce unwanted effects of the tip on recorded data are indispensable for the extraction of detailed information about the atomic-scale properties of the surface.
atomic force microscopy; force spectroscopy; NC-AFM; three-dimensional atomic force microscopy; tip asymmetry; tip elasticity
Here we describe a simple method to prepare voltammetric microelectrodes using tungsten wires as a substrate. Tungsten wires have high tensile modulus and enable the fabrication of electrodes that have small dimensions overall while retaining rigidity. In this work, 125 μm tungsten wires with a conical tip were employed. For the preparation of gold or platinum ultramicroelectrodes, commercial tungsten microelectrodes, completely insulated except at the tip, were used as substrates. Following removal of oxides from the exposed tungsten, platinum or gold was electroplated yielding surfaces with an electroactive area of between 1×10−6 cm2 to 2×10−6 cm2. Carbon surfaces on the etched tip of tungsten microwires were prepared by coating with photoresist followed by pyrolysis. The entire electrode was then insulated with Epoxylite except the tip yielding an exposed carbon surface with an area of around 4×10−6 cm2 to 6×10−6 cm2. All three types of ultramicroelectrodes fabricated on the tungsten wire had similar electrochemical behavior to electrodes fabricated from wires or fibers insulated with glass tubes.
The measuring tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) can be upgraded to a specific biosensor by attaching one or a few biomolecules to the apex of the tip. The biofunctionalized tip is then used to map cognate target molecules on a sample surface or to study biophysical parameters of interaction with the target molecules. The functionality of tip-bound sensor molecules is greatly enhanced if they are linked via a thin, flexible polymer chain. In a typical scheme of tip functionalization, reactive groups are first generated on the tip surface, a bifunctional cross-linker is then attached with one of its two reactive ends, and finally the probe molecule of interest is coupled to the free end of the cross-linker. Unfortunately, the most popular functional group generated on the tip surface is the amino group, while at the same time, the only useful coupling functions of many biomolecules (such as antibodies) are also NH2 groups. In the past, various tricks or detours were applied to minimize the undesired bivalent reaction of bifunctional linkers with adjacent NH2 groups on the tip surface. In the present study, an uncompromising solution to this problem was found with the help of a new cross-linker (“acetal-PEG-NHS”) which possesses one activated carboxyl group and one acetal-protected benzaldehyde function. The activated carboxyl ensures rapid unilateral attachment to the amino-functionalized tip, and only then is the terminal acetal group converted into the amino-reactive benzaldehyde function by mild treatment (1% citric acid, 1–10 min) which does not harm the AFM tip. As an exception, AFM tips with magnetic coating become demagnetized in 1% citric acid. This problem was solved by deprotecting the acetal group before coupling the PEG linker to the AFM tip. Bivalent binding of the corresponding linker (“aldehyde-PEG-NHS”) to adjacent NH2 groups on the tip was largely suppressed by high linker concentrations. In this way, magnetic AFM tips could be functionalized with an ethylene diamine derivative of ATP which showed specific interaction with mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) that had been purified and reconstituted in a mica-supported planar lipid bilayer.
In this paper, the fabrication and electrical and electromechanical characterization of insulated scanning probes have been demonstrated in liquid solutions. The silicon cantilevers were sequentially coated with chromium and silicon dioxide, and the silicon dioxide was selectively etched at tip apex using focused electron beam induced etching (FEBIE) with XeF2 The chromium layer acted not only as the conductive path from the tip, but also as an etch resistant layer. This insulated scanning probe fabrication process is compatible with any commercial AFM tip and can be used to easily tailor the scanning probe tip properties because FEBIE does not require lithography. The suitability of the fabricated probes is demonstrated by imaging of standard topographical calibration grid as well as piezoresponse force microscopy (PFM) and electrical measurements in ambient and liquid environments.
We demonstrate a method that allows the controlled writing of metallic patterns on the nanometer scale using the tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM) as a “mechano–electrochemical pen”. In contrast to previous experiments, no voltage is applied between the AFM tip and the sample surface. Instead, a passivated sample surface is activated locally due to lateral forces between the AFM tip and the sample surface. In this way, the area of tip–sample interaction is narrowly limited by the mechanical contact between tip and sample, and well-defined metallic patterns can be written reproducibly. Nanoscale structures and lines of copper were deposited, and the line widths ranged between 5 nm and 80 nm, depending on the deposition parameters. A procedure for the sequential writing of metallic nanostructures is introduced, based on the understanding of the passivation process. The mechanism of this mechano–electrochemical writing technique is investigated, and the processes of site-selective surface depassivation, deposition, dissolution and repassivation of electrochemically deposited nanoscale metallic islands are studied in detail.
atomic force microscopy; deposition; electrochemistry; nanoelectronics; nanofabrication; nanolithography; nanotechnology; NEMS and MEMS; scanning probe lithography
Individual atoms and ions are now routinely manipulated using scanning tunnelling microscopes or electromagnetic traps for the creation and control of artificial quantum states. For applications such as quantum information processing, the ability to introduce multiple atomic-scale defects deterministically in a semiconductor is highly desirable. Here we use a scanning tunnelling microscope to fabricate interacting chains of dangling bond defects on the hydrogen-passivated silicon (001) surface. We image both the ground-state and the excited-state probability distributions of the resulting artificial molecular orbitals, using the scanning tunnelling microscope tip bias and tip-sample separation as gates to control which states contribute to the image. Our results demonstrate that atomically precise quantum states can be fabricated on silicon, and suggest a general model of quantum-state fabrication using other chemically passivated semiconductor surfaces where single-atom depassivation can be achieved using scanning tunnelling microscopy.
The ability to add and move individual atoms on a surface with a scanning tunnelling microscope enables precise control over the electronic quantum states of the surface. Schofield et al. show that removing hydrogen atoms from a passivated silicon surface can be used to generate and control such states.
Metal microelectrodes are widely used in neuroscience research, and could potentially replace macroelectrodes in various neuro-stimulation applications where their small size, specificity, and their ability to also measure unit activity are desirable. The design of stimulating microelectrodes for specific applications requires knowledge on how tip geometry affects function, but several fundamental aspects of this relationship are not yet well understood. This study uses a combined experimental and physical finite elements simulation approach to formulate three new relationships between the geometrical and electrical properties of stimulating cone-tipped tungsten microelectrodes: (1) The empirical relationship between microelectrode 1-kHz impedance and the exposed tip surface area is best approximated by an inverse square-root function (as expected for a cone-tipped resistive interface). (2) Tip angle plays a major role in determining current distribution along the tip, and as a consequence crucially affects the charge injection capacity of a microelectrode. (3) The critical current for the onset of corrosion is independent of tip surface area in sharp microelectrodes.
microelectrodes; deep brain stimulation; cone-tipped; critical current density; finite elements model
Instrumental drift in atomic force microscopy (AFM) remains a critical, largely unaddressed issue that limits tip–sample stability, registration, and the signal-to-noise ratio during imaging. By scattering a laser off the apex of a commercial AFM tip, we locally measured and thereby actively controlled its three-dimensional position above a sample surface to <40 pm (Δf = 0.01–10 Hz) in air at room temperature. With this enhanced stability, we overcame the traditional need to scan rapidly while imaging and achieved a 5-fold increase in the image signal-to-noise ratio. Finally, we demonstrated atomic-scale (~100 pm) tip–sample stability and registration over tens of minutes with a series of AFM images on transparent substrates. The stabilization technique requires low laser power (<1 mW), imparts a minimal perturbation upon the cantilever, and is independent of the tip–sample interaction. This work extends atomic-scale tip–sample control, previously restricted to cryogenic temperatures and ultrahigh vacuum, to a wide range of perturbative operating environments.
The fabrication and characterization of tungsten nanoelectrodes insulated with cathodic electrophoretic paint is described together with their application within the field of neurophysiology. The tip of a 127 μm diameter tungsten wire was etched down to less than 100 nm and then insulated with cathodic electrophoretic paint. Focused ion beam (FIB) polishing was employed to remove the insulation at the electrode’s apex, leaving a nanoscale sized conductive tip of 100–1000 nm. The nanoelectrodes were examined by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and their electrochemical properties characterized by steady state linear sweep voltammetry. Electrode impedance at 1 kHz was measured too. The ability of a 700 nm tipped electrode to record well-isolated action potentials extracellularly from single visual neurons in vivo was demonstrated. Such electrodes have the potential to open new populations of neurons to study.
Realization of graphene moiré superstructures on the surface of 4d and 5d transition metals offers templates with periodically modulated electron density, which is responsible for a number of fascinating effects, including the formation of quantum dots and the site selective adsorption of organic molecules or metal clusters on graphene. Here, applying the combination of scanning probe microscopy/spectroscopy and the density functional theory calculations, we gain a profound insight into the electronic and topographic contributions to the imaging contrast of the epitaxial graphene/Ir(111) system. We show directly that in STM imaging the electronic contribution is prevailing compared to the topographic one. In the force microscopy and spectroscopy experiments we observe a variation of the interaction strength between the tip and high-symmetry places within the graphene moiré supercell, which determine the adsorption sites for molecules or metal clusters on graphene/Ir(111).
Key developments in NC-AFM have generally involved atomically flat crystalline surfaces. However, many surfaces of technological interest are not atomically flat. We discuss the experimental difficulties in obtaining high-resolution images of rough surfaces, with amorphous SiO2 as a specific case. We develop a quasi-1-D minimal model for noncontact atomic force microscopy, based on van der Waals interactions between a spherical tip and the surface, explicitly accounting for the corrugated substrate (modeled as a sinusoid). The model results show an attenuation of the topographic contours by ~30% for tip distances within 5 Å of the surface. Results also indicate a deviation from the Hamaker force law for a sphere interacting with a flat surface.
graphene; model; noncontact atomic force microscopy; SiO2; van der Waals
The atomic force microscope (AFM), operating in contact mode, has been employed in buffer solution to study two proteins; (i) green fluorescent protein (GFP), from the hydromedusan jellyfish Aequorea victoria; and (ii) human oncostatin M (OSM), in the presence of size-selected gold nanoclusters pinned on to a highly oriented pyrolytic graphite substrate. The AFM images have revealed immobilization of single molecules of OSM, which are strongly bound to the gold nanoclusters. Conversely, no strong immobilization has been observed for the GFP, as these molecules were easily displaced by the scanning tip. The contrasting behaviour of the two proteins can be explained by the exposed molecular surface area of their cysteine residues as modelled on the basis of their respective X-ray crystallographic data structures. GFP contains two cysteine residues, but neither is readily available to chemisorb on the gold clusters, because the cysteines are largely inaccessible from the surface of the protein. In contrast, OSM has a total of five cysteine residues, with different degrees of accessibility, which make the protein amenable to anchoring on the nanoclusters. Statistical analysis of the height of the OSM molecules bound to the nanoclusters is in accordance with crystallographic data, and suggests various configurations of the proteins on the clusters, associated with the presence of different cysteine anchoring sites. These results suggest that the three-dimensional conformation of protein molecules is preserved when they are chemisorbed to size-selected gold clusters, thus opening a new route towards oriented immobilization of individual protein molecules.
atomic force microscopy; single molecule; cysteine; molecular surface area; gold clusters; oriented immobilization
In Atomic force microscope (AFM) examination of a vibrating microcantilever, the nonlinear tip-sample interaction would greatly influence the dynamics of the cantilever. In this paper, the nonlinear dynamics and chaos of a tip-sample dynamic system being run in the tapping mode (TM) were investigated by considering the effects of hydrodynamic loading and squeeze film damping. The microcantilever was modeled as a spring-mass-damping system and the interaction between the tip and the sample was described by the Lennard-Jones (LJ) potential. The fundamental frequency and quality factor were calculated from the transient oscillations of the microcantilever vibrating in air. Numerical simulations were carried out to study the coupled nonlinear dynamic system using the bifurcation diagram, Poincaré maps, largest Lyapunov exponent, phase portraits and time histories. Results indicated the occurrence of periodic and chaotic motions and provided a comprehensive understanding of the hydrodynamic loading of microcantilevers. It was demonstrated that the coupled dynamic system will experience complex nonlinear oscillation as the system parameters change and the effect of squeeze film damping is not negligible on the micro-scale.
TM-AFM; microcantilever; squeeze film damping; Lennard-Jones (LJ) potential
Image guidance promises to improve targeting accuracy and broaden the scope of medical procedures performed with needles. This paper takes a step toward automating the guidance of a flexible tip-steerable needle as it is inserted into human tissue. We build upon a previously proposed nonholonomic model of needles that derive steering from asymmetric bevel forces at the tip. The bevel-tip needle is inserted and rotated at its base in order to steer it in six degrees of freedom. As a first step for control, we show that the needle tip can be automatically guided to a planar slice of tissue as it is inserted. Our approach keeps the physician in the loop to control insertion speed. The distance of the needle tip position from the plane of interest is used to drive an observer-based feedback controller which we prove is locally asymptotically stable. Numerical simulations demonstrate a large domain of attraction and robustness of the controller in the face of parametric uncertainty and measurement noise. Physical experiments with tip-steerable Nitinol needles inserted into a transparent plastisol tissue phantom under stereo image guidance validate the effectiveness of our approach.
needle steering; feedback control; nonholonomic system
Scanning electrochemical microscopy (SECM) is developed as a powerful approach to electrochemical characterization of individual one-dimensional (1D) nanostructures under unbiased conditions. 1D nanostructures comprise high-aspect-ratio materials with both nanoscale and macroscale dimensions such as nanowires, nanotubes, nanobelts, and nanobands. Finite element simulations demonstrate that the feedback current at a disk-shaped ultramicroelectrode tip positioned above an unbiased nanoband, as prepared on an insulating substrate, is sensitive to finite dimensions of the band, i.e., micrometer length, nanometer width, and nanometer height from the insulating surface. The electron-transfer rate of a redox mediator at the nanoband surface depends not only on the intrinsic rate but also on the open-circuit potential of the nanoband, which is determined by the dimensions of the nanoband as well as the tip inner and outer radii, and tip–substrate distance. The theoretical predictions are confirmed experimentally by employing Au nanobands as fabricated on a SiO2 surface by electron-beam lithography, thereby yielding well defined dimensions of 100 or 500 nm in width, 47 nm in height, and 50 μm in length. A 100 nm-wide nanoband can be detected by SECM imaging with ∼2 μm-diameter tips although the tip feedback current is compromised by finite electron-transfer kinetics for Ru(NH3)63+ at the nanoband surface.
scanning electrochemical microscopy; feedback mode; one-dimensional nanostructure; gold nanoband; electron-beam lithography; finite element simulation
Information obtained by atomic force microscopy (AFM) depends strongly on the kind of probe or tip used; therefore, probe and tip effects have to be taken into account when verifying or interpreting the data acquired. In many papers, double-tip effects have been mentioned while other research was done; however, there are only a few special reports on double- or triple-tip effects, especially double-probe effects. In our paper, metaphase chromosomes of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells, aggregates of pectin molecules, membrane surface of mouse embryonic stem cells, and R-phycoerythrin-conjugated immunoglobulin G complexes were imaged by AFM with high-quality probes, double-probe cantilever, and double-tip and triple-tip probes, respectively, in order to determine double-probe, double-tip, and triple-tip effects during AFM scanning. We found that the double-probe, double-tip, and triple-tip effects share the same principle, and that these effects correlate with distance and height differences between probes of double-probe cantilever or tips of double-tip or multiple-tip probes. Since many other factors influence double-probe or double-tip effects, more in-depth studies must be undertaken. However, this initial research will make all users of AFM techniques aware of double-probe and double-tip or triple-tip effects during AFM scanning and aid in verifying or interpreting the data acquired.
double-probe effects; double-tip effects; triple-tip effects; atomic force microscopy; tip artifacts; chromosome; pectin; phycoerythrin conjugated immunoglobulin G
Single-molecule force spectroscopy, as implemented in an atomic force microscope, provides a rarely-used method by which to monitor dynamic processes that occur near surfaces. Here, a methodology is presented and characterized that facilitates the study of polymer bridging across nanometer-sized gaps. The model system employed is that of DNA-based reversible polymers, and an automated procedure is introduced that allows the AFM tip-surface contact point to be automatically determined, and the distance d between opposing surfaces to be actively controlled. Using this methodology, the importance of several experimental parameters was systematically studied, e.g. the frequency of repeated tip/surface contacts, the area of the substrate surface sampled by the AFM, and the use of multiple AFM tips and substrates. Experiments revealed the surfaces to be robust throughout pulling experiments, so that multiple touches and pulls could be carried out on a single spot with no measurable affect on the results. Differences in observed bridging probabilities were observed, both on different spots on the same surface and, more dramatically, from one day to another. Data normalization via a reference measurement allows data from multiple days to be directly compared.
Single-molecule force spectroscopy; reversible polymer; atomic force microscope; DNA; supramolecular polymer; bridging probability
Interaction between P-factor, a peptide pheromone composed of 23 amino acid residues, and its pheromone receptor, Mam2, on the cell surface of the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe was examined by an atomic force microscope (AFM). An AFM tip was modified with P-factor derivatives to perform force curve measurements. The specific interaction force between P-factor and Mam2 was calculated to be around 120 pN at a probe speed of 1.74 μm/s. When the AFM tip was modified with truncated P-factor derivative lacking C-terminal Leu, the specific interaction between the tip and the cell surface was not observed. These results were also confirmed with an assay system using a green fluorescent protein (GFP) reporter gene to monitor the activation level of signal transduction following the interaction of Mam2 with P-factor.
Hyphal tips of fungi representing Oömycetes, Zygomycetes, Ascomycetes, Basidiomycetes, and Deuteromycetes were examined by light and electron microscopy and compared with respect to their protoplasmic organization. In all fungi studied, there is a zone at the hyphal apex which is rich in cytoplasmic vesicles but nearly devoid of other cell components. Some vesicle profiles are continuous with the plasma membrane at the apices of these tip-growing cells. The subapical zones of hyphae contain an endomembrane system which includes smooth-surfaced cisternae associated with small clusters of vesicles. The findings are consistent with the hypothesis that vesicles produced by the endomembrane system in the subapical region become concentrated in the apex where they are incorporated at the expanding surface. Septate fungi (Ascomycetes, Basidiomycetes, and Deuteromycetes) have an apical body (Spitzenkörper) which is associated with growing hyphal tips. In electron micrographs of these fungi, an additional specialized region within the accumulation of apical vesicles is shown for the first time. This region corresponds on the bases of distribution among fungi, location in hyphae, size, shape and boundary characteristics to the Spitzenkörper seen by light microscopy. This structure is not universally associated with tip growth, whereas apical vesicles are widespread among tip-growing systems.
Fast-scan cyclic voltammetry at scan rates between 5 and 1000 Vs−1 was performed at the tip of a scanning electrochemical microscope immersed in a solution of redox mediator. The effect of conducting and insulating substrates on the voltammetric signal was investigated as a function of scan rate and tip-substrate distance. It was found that diffusional interactions between the tip and the substrate are greatest at lower scan rates and on the reverse sweep of the voltammogram. At the fastest scan rates used, the tip could be brought to with 1 μm of the substrate without appreciable perturbation of the voltammogram. By selecting scan rates and tip-substrate distances such that feedback effects were negligible, it was possible to image the diffusion layer of a 10 μm Pt substrate electrode. With the tip placed 1 μm above a biological cell, tip-substrate diffusional interactions were greatly diminished at a scan rate of 100 Vs−1, and absent at a scan rate of 1000 Vs−1. These results suggest conditions can be selected that allow chemical imaging of substrates without the feedback interactions typically encountered in scanning electrochemical microscopy.
Accurate mechanical characterization by the atomic force microscope at the highest spatial resolution requires that topography is deconvoluted from indentation. The measured height of nanoscale features in the atomic force microscope (AFM) is almost always smaller than the true value, which is often explained away as sample deformation, the formation of salt deposits and/or dehydration. We show that the real height of nano-objects cannot be obtained directly: a result arising as a consequence of the local probe-sample geometry.
Methods and Findings
We have modeled the tip-surface-sample interaction as the sum of the interaction between the tip and the surface and the tip and the sample. We find that the dynamics of the AFM cannot differentiate between differences in force resulting from 1) the chemical and/or mechanical characteristics of the surface or 2) a step in topography due to the size of the sample; once the size of a feature becomes smaller than the effective area of interaction between the AFM tip and sample, the measured height is compromised. This general result is a major contributor to loss of height and can amount to up to ∼90% for nanoscale features. In particular, these very large values in height loss may occur even when there is no sample deformation, and, more generally, height loss does not correlate with sample deformation. DNA and IgG antibodies have been used as model samples where experimental height measurements are shown to closely match the predicted phenomena.
Being able to measure the true height of single nanoscale features is paramount in many nanotechnology applications since phenomena and properties in the nanoscale critically depend on dimensions. Our approach allows accurate predictions for the true height of nanoscale objects and will lead to reliable mechanical characterization at the highest spatial resolution.
Measurements of the frequency shift versus distance in noncontact atomic force microscopy (NC-AFM) allow measurements of the force gradient between the oscillating tip and a surface (force-spectroscopy measurements). When nonconservative forces act between the tip apex and the surface the oscillation amplitude is damped. The dissipation is caused by bistabilities in the potential energy surface of the tip–sample system, and the process can be understood as a hysteresis of forces between approach and retraction of the tip. In this paper, we present the direct measurement of the whole hysteresis loop in force-spectroscopy curves at 77 K on the PTCDA/Ag/Si(111) √3 × √3 surface by means of a tuning-fork-based NC-AFM with an oscillation amplitude smaller than the distance range of the hysteresis loop. The hysteresis effect is caused by the making and breaking of a bond between PTCDA molecules on the surface and a PTCDA molecule at the tip. The corresponding energy loss was determined to be 0.57 eV by evaluation of the force–distance curves upon approach and retraction. Furthermore, a second dissipation process was identified through the damping of the oscillation while the molecule on the tip is in contact with the surface. This dissipation process occurs mainly during the retraction of the tip. It reaches a maximum value of about 0.22 eV/cycle.
atomic force microscopy; energy dissipation; force spectroscopy; hysteresis loop; PTCDA/Ag/Si(111) √3 × √3
The lysin motif (LysM) is a ubiquitous protein module that binds peptidoglycan and structurally related molecules. Here, we used single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) to measure and localize individual LysM-peptidoglycan interactions on both model and cellular surfaces. LysM modules of the major autolysin AcmA of Lactococcus lactis were bound to gold-coated atomic force microscopy tips, while peptidoglycan was covalently attached onto model supports. Multiple force curves recorded between the LysM tips and peptidoglycan surfaces yielded a bimodal distribution of binding forces, presumably reflecting the occurrence of one and two LysM-peptidoglycan interactions, respectively. The specificity of the measured interaction was confirmed by performing blocking experiments with free peptidoglycan. Next, the LysM tips were used to map single LysM interactions on the surfaces of L. lactis cells. Strikingly, native cells showed very poor binding, suggesting that peptidoglycan was hindered by other cell wall constituents. Consistent with this notion, treatment of the cells with trichloroacetic acid, which removes peptidoglycan-associated polymers, resulted in substantial and homogeneous binding of the LysM tip. These results provide novel insight into the binding forces of bacterial LysMs and show that SMFS is a promising tool for studying the heterologous display of proteins or peptides on bacterial surfaces.