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Force Spectroscopy with 9-μs Resolution and Sub-pN Stability by Tailoring AFM Cantilever Geometry

TitleForce Spectroscopy with 9-μs Resolution and Sub-pN Stability by Tailoring AFM Cantilever Geometry
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsEdwards, DT, Faulk, JK, LeBlanc, M-A, Perkins, TT
JournalBiophysical Journal
Pagination2595 - 2600
Date Published2017-12

Atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based single-molecule force spectroscopy (SMFS) is a powerful yet accessible means to characterize the unfolding/refolding dynamics of individual molecules and resolve closely spaced, transiently occupied folding intermediates. On a modern commercial AFM, these applications and others are now limited by the mechanical properties of the cantilever. Specifically, AFM-based SMFS data quality is degraded by a commercial cantilever’s limited combination of temporal resolution, force precision, and force stability. Recently, we modified commercial cantilevers with a focused ion beam to optimize their properties for SMFS. Here, we extend this capability by modifying a 40 × 18 μmcantilever into one terminated with a gold-coated, 4 × 4 μmreflective region connected to an uncoated 2-μm-wide central shaft. This “Warhammer” geometry achieved 8.5-μs resolution coupled with improved force precision and sub-pN stability over 100 s when measured on a commercial AFM. We highlighted this cantilever’s biological utility by first resolving a calmodulin unfolding intermediate previously undetected by AFM and then measuring the stabilization of calmodulin by myosin light chain kinase at dramatically higher unfolding velocities than in previous AFM studies. More generally, enhancing data quality via an improved combination of time resolution, force precision, and force stability will broadly benefit biological applications of AFM.

Short TitleBiophysical Journal