Digital force-feedback for protein unfolding experiments using atomic force microscopy

Christian A. Bippes, Harald Janovjak, Alexej Kedrov, Daniel J. Muller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Since its invention in the 1990s single-molecule force spectroscopy has been increasingly applied to study protein (un-)folding, cell adhesion, and ligand-receptor interactions. In most force spectroscopy studies, the cantilever of an atomic force microscope (AFM) is separated from a surface at a constant velocity, thus applying an increasing force to folded bio-molecules or bio-molecular bonds. Recently, Fernandez and co-workers introduced the so-called force-clamp technique. Single proteins were subjected to a defined constant force allowing their life times and life time distributions to be directly measured. Up to now, the force-clamping was performed by analogue PID controllers, which require complex additional hardware and might make it difficult to combine the force-feedback with other modes such as constant velocity. These points may be limiting the applicability and versatility of this technique. Here we present a simple, fast, and all-digital (software-based) PID controller that yields response times of a few milliseconds in combination with a commercial AFM. We demonstrate the performance of our feedback loop by force-clamp unfolding of single Ig27 domains of titin and the membrane proteins bacteriorhodopsin (BR) and the sodium/proton antiporter NhaA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number044022
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2007
Externally publishedYes


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