Author(s): Pechkova E, Sartore M, Giacomelli L, Nicolini C
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Abstract A customized atomic force microscopy (AFM) instrument optimized for imaging protein crystals in solution is described. The device was tested on crystals and Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) films of two proteins with quite different molecular weights. This approach enables the periodicity and morphology of crystals to be studied in their mother liquid, thereby preserving the native periodic protein crystal structure, which is typically destroyed by drying. Moreover, the instrument appears to distinguish protein crystals from salt crystals, which under the optical microscope are frequently quite similar, the difference between them often being revealed only during x-ray analysis. AFM estimates of the packing, order, and morphology of the given single proteins appear quite similar in the LB thin film and in the crystals, which means that routine crystal measurements can be performed at high resolution. The AFM consists of a custom-built measuring head and a homemade flexible SPM controller which can drive the head for contact, noncontact and spectroscopy modes, thus providing the user with a high degree of customization for crystal measurement.
This article was published in Rev Sci Instrum
and referenced in Journal of Proteomics & Bioinformatics