Atomic force microscopy with carbon nanotube probe resolves the subunit organization of protein complexes

K. I. Hohmura, Y. Itokazu, S. H. Yoshimura, G. Mizuguchi, Y. S. Masamura, K. Takeyasu, Y. Shiomi, T. Tsurimoto, H. Nishijima, S. Akita, Y. Nakayama

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Among many scanning probe microscopies, atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a useful technique to analyse the structure of biological materials because of its applicability to non-conductors in physiological conditions with high resolution. However, the resolution has been limited to an inherent property of the technique; tip effect associated with a large radius of the scanning probe. To overcome this problem, we developed a carbon nanotube probe by attaching a carbon nanotube to a conventional scanning probe under a well-controlled process. Because of the constant and small radius of the tip (2.5-10 nm) and the high aspect ratio (1: 100) of the carbon nanotube, the lateral resolution has been much improved judging from the apparent widths of DNA and nucleosomes. The carbon nanotube probes also possessed a higher durability than the conventional probes. We further evaluated the quality of carbon nanotube probes by three parameters to find out the best condition for AFM imaging: the angle to the tip axis; the length; and the tight fixation to the conventional tip. These carbon nanotube probes, with high vertical resolution, enabled us to clearly visualize the subunit organization of multi-subunit proteins and to propose structural models for proliferating cell nuclear antigen and replication factor C. This success in the application of carbon nanotube probes provides the current AFM technology with an additional power for the analyses of the detailed structure of biological materials and the relationship between the structure and function of proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-421
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Electron Microscopy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Instrumentation


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