Biophysical Measurements of Cells, Microtubules, and DNA with an Atomic Force Microscope

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Devenica, Luka M.; Contee, Clay; Cabrejo, Raysa; Kurek, Matthew; Deveney, Edward F.; Carter, Ashley R.
Physics; Science and Mathematics Education
article description
Atomic force microscopes (AFMs) are ubiquitous in research laboratories and have recently been priced for use in teaching laboratories. Here we review several AFM platforms (Dimension 3000 by Digital Instruments, EasyScan2 by Nanosurf, ezAFM by Nanomagnetics, and TKAFM by Thorlabs) and describe various biophysical experiments that could be done in the teaching laboratory using these instruments. In particular, we focus on experiments that image biological materials and quantify biophysical parameters: 1) imaging cells to determine membrane tension, 2) imaging microtubules to determine their persistence length, 3) imaging the random walk of DNA molecules to determine their contour length, and 4) imaging stretched DNA molecules to measure the tensional force.