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Conditions to minimize soft single biomolecule deformation when imaging with atomic force microscopy

Abstract : A recurrent interrogation when imaging soft biomolecules using atomic force microscopy (AFM) is the putative deformation of molecules leading to a bias in recording true topographical surfaces. Deformation of biomolecules comes from three sources: sample instability, adsorption to the imaging substrate, and crushing under tip pressure. To disentangle these causes, we measured the maximum height of a well-known biomolecule, the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV), under eight different experimental conditions positing that the maximum height value is a specific indicator of sample deformations. Six basic AFM experimental factors were tested: imaging in air (AIR) versus in liquid (LIQ), imaging with flat minerals (MICA) versus flat organic surfaces (self-assembled monolayers, SAM), and imaging forces with oscillating tapping mode (TAP) versus PeakForce tapping (PFT). The results show that the most critical parameter in accurately measuring the height of TMV in air is the substrate. In a liquid environment, regardless of the substrate, the most critical parameter is the imaging mode. Most importantly, the expected TMV height values were obtained with both imaging with the PeakForce tapping mode either in liquid or in air at the condition of using self-assembled monolayers as substrate. This study unambigu-ously explains previous poor results of imaging biomolecules on mica in air and suggests alternative methodologies for depositing soft biomolecules on well organized self-assembled monolayers.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - 9:19:50 AM
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Christian Godon, Jean-Marie Teulon, Michaël Odorico, Christian Basset, Matthieu Meillan, et al.. Conditions to minimize soft single biomolecule deformation when imaging with atomic force microscopy. Journal of Structural Biology, Elsevier, 2017, 197 (3), pp.322 - 329. ⟨10.1016/j.jsb.2016.12.011⟩. ⟨hal-01497664⟩

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