Direct measurement of single-molecule visco-elasticity in atomic force microscope force-extension experiments

Christian A. Bippes, Andrew D.L. Humphris, Martin Stark, Daniel J. Müller, Harald Janovjak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Measuring the visco-elastic properties of biological macromolecules constitutes an important step towards the understanding of dynamic biological processes, such as cell adhesion, muscle function, or plant cell wall stability. Force spectroscopy techniques based on the atomic force microscope (AFM) are increasingly used to study the complex visco-elastic response of (bio)molecules on a single-molecule level. These experiments either require that the AFM cantilever is actively oscillated or that the molecule is clamped at constant force to monitor thermal cantilever motion. Here we demonstrate that the visco-elasticity of single bio-molecules can readily be extracted from the Brownian cantilever motion during conventional force-extension measurements. It is shown that the characteristics of the cantilever determine the signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio and time resolution. Using a small cantilever, the visco-elastic properties of single dextran molecules were resolved with a time resolution of 8.3 ms. The presented approach can be directly applied to probe the dynamic response of complex bio-molecular systems or proteins in force-extension experiments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)287-292
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Biophysics Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes


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