Microscopy (Oxford, England)

High-speed atomic force microscopy.

PMID 23291302


High-speed atomic force microscopy (HS-AFM) has been developed as a nano-dynamics visualization technique. This microscopy permits direct observation of structure dynamics and dynamic processes of biological molecules in physiological solutions, at a subsecond to sub-100 ms temporal resolution and an ∼2 nm lateral and a 0.1 nm vertical resolution. Importantly, tip-sample interactions do not disturb the biomolecules' functions. Various functioning proteins including myosin V walking on an actin filament and bacteriorhodopsin responding to light have been successfully visualized with HS-AFM. In the quest for understanding the functional mechanisms of proteins, inferences no longer have to be made from static snapshots of molecular structures and dynamic behavior of optical markers attached to proteins. High-resolution molecular movies obtained from HS-AFM observations reveal the details of molecules' dynamic behavior in action, without the need for intricate analyses and interpretations. In this review, I first describe the fundamentals behind the achieved high imaging rate and low invasiveness to samples, and then highlight recent imaging studies. Finally, future studies are briefly described.