Publications

by Keyword: Force spectroscopy


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Wang, Y., van Merwyk, L., Tönsing, K., Walhorn, V., Anselmetti, D., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2017). Biophysical characterization of the association of histones with single-stranded DNA Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA) - General Subjects 1861, (11), 2739-2749

Background: Despite the profound current knowledge of the architecture and dynamics of nucleosomes, little is known about the structures generated by the interaction of histones with single-stranded DNA (ssDNA), which is widely present during replication and transcription. Methods: Non-denaturing gel electrophoresis, transmission electron microscopy, atomic force microscopy, magnetic tweezers. Results: Histones have a high affinity for ssDNA in 0.15 M NaCl ionic strength, with an apparent binding constant similar to that calculated for their association with double-stranded DNA (dsDNA). The length of DNA (number of nucleotides in ssDNA or base pairs in dsDNA) associated with a fixed core histone mass is the same for both ssDNA and dsDNA. Although histone-ssDNA complexes show a high tendency to aggregate, nucleosome-like structures are formed at physiological salt concentrations. Core histones are able to protect ssDNA from digestion by micrococcal nuclease, and a shortening of ssDNA occurs upon its interaction with histones. The purified (+) strand of a cloned DNA fragment of nucleosomal origin has a higher affinity for histones than the purified complementary (−) strand. Conclusions: At physiological ionic strength histones have high affinity for ssDNA, possibly associating with it into nucleosome-like structures. General significance: In the cell nucleus histones may spontaneously interact with ssDNA to facilitate their participation in the replication and transcription of chromatin.

Keywords: Electrophoresis, Force spectroscopy, Histones, Magnetic tweezers, Nucleosome, Single-stranded DNA


Gumí-Audenis, Berta, Costa, Luca, Carlá, Francesco, Comin, Fabio, Sanz, Fausto, Giannotti, M. I., (2016). Structure and nanomechanics of model membranes by atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy: Insights into the role of cholesterol and sphingolipids Membranes 6, (4), 58

Biological membranes mediate several biological processes that are directly associated with their physical properties but sometimes difficult to evaluate. Supported lipid bilayers (SLBs) are model systems widely used to characterize the structure of biological membranes. Cholesterol (Chol) plays an essential role in the modulation of membrane physical properties. It directly influences the order and mechanical stability of the lipid bilayers, and it is known to laterally segregate in rafts in the outer leaflet of the membrane together with sphingolipids (SLs). Atomic force microscope (AFM) is a powerful tool as it is capable to sense and apply forces with high accuracy, with distance and force resolution at the nanoscale, and in a controlled environment. AFM-based force spectroscopy (AFM-FS) has become a crucial technique to study the nanomechanical stability of SLBs by controlling the liquid media and the temperature variations. In this contribution, we review recent AFM and AFM-FS studies on the effect of Chol on the morphology and mechanical properties of model SLBs, including complex bilayers containing SLs. We also introduce a promising combination of AFM and X-ray (XR) techniques that allows for in situ characterization of dynamic processes, providing structural, morphological, and nanomechanical information

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Force spectroscopy, Lipid membranes, Supported lipid bilayers, Nanomechanics, Cholesterol, Sphingolipids, Membrane structure, XR-AFM combination


Dols-Perez, A., Fumagalli, L., Gomila, G., (2014). Structural and nanomechanical effects of cholesterol in binary and ternary spin-coated single lipid bilayers in dry conditions Colloids and Surfaces B: Biointerfaces 116, 295-302

We investigate the effects of Cholesterol (Chol) in the structural and nanomechanical properties of binary and ternary spin-coated single lipid bilayers made of Dioleoylphosphatidylcholine (DOPC) and Sphingomyelin (SM) in dry conditions. We show that for the DOPC/Chol bilayers, Chol induces an initial increase of the bilayer thickness, followed by decrease for concentrations above 30% Chol. The mechanical properties, instead, appear practically insensitive to the Chol content. For the SM/Chol bilayers we have observed both the thinning of the bilayer and the decrease of the force necessary to break it for Chol content above 40. mol%. In both binary mixtures phase separation is not observed. For ternary single bilayers of DOPC/SM/Chol, Chol induces phase segregation and the formation of domains resembling lipid rafts. The domains show a thickness and mechanical response clearly distinct from the surrounding phase and dependent on the relative Chol content. Based on the results obtained for the binary mixtures, DOPC- and SM-enriched domains can be identified. We highlight that many of the effects of Chol reported here for the dry multicomponent single lipid bilayers resemble closely those observed in hydrated bilayers, thus offering an additional insight into their properties.

Keywords: AFM, Air-stable lipid layer, Force spectroscopy, Lipid raft, Spin-coating


Redondo-Morata, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2014). Structural impact of cations on lipid bilayer models: Nanomechanical properties by AFM-force spectroscopy Molecular Membrane Biology 31, (1), 17-28

Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) has become an invaluable tool for studying the micro-and nanoworlds. As a stand-alone, high-resolution imaging technique and force transducer, it defies most other surface instrumentation in ease of use, sensitivity and versatility. The main strength of AFM relies on the possibility to operate in an aqueous environment on a wide variety of biological samples, from single molecules-DNA or proteins-to macromolecular assemblies like biological membranes. Understanding the effect of mechanical stress on membranes is of primary importance in biophysics, since cells are known to perform their function under a complex combination of forces. In the later years, AFM-based Force-Spectroscopy (AFM-FS) has provided a new vista on membrane mechanics in a confined area within the nanometer realm, where most of the specific molecular interactions take place. Lipid membranes are electrostatically charged entities that physiologically coexist with electrolyte solutions. Thus, specific interactions with ions are a matter of considerable interest. The distribution of ions in the solution and their interaction with the membranes are factors that substantially modify the structure and dynamics of the cell membranes. Furthermore, signaling processes are modified by the membrane capability of retaining ions. Supported Lipid Bilayers (SLBs) are a versatile tool to investigate phospholipid membranes mimicking biological surfaces. In the present contribution, we review selected experiments on the mechanical stability of SLBs as models of lipid membranes by means of AFM-FS, with special focus on the effect of cations and ionic strength in the overall nanomechanical stability.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy, Cations, Force spectroscopy, Lipid bilayer, Mechanical stability


Valle-Delgado, J. J., Liepina, I., Lapidus, D., Sabaté, R., Ventura, S., Samitier, J., Fernàndez-Busquets, X., (2012). Self-assembly of human amylin-derived peptides studied by atomic force microscopy and single molecule force spectroscopy Soft Matter 8, (4), 1234-1242

The self-assembly of peptides and proteins into amyloid fibrils of nanometric thickness and up to several micrometres in length, a phenomenon widely observed in biological systems, has recently aroused a growing interest in nanotechnology and nanomedicine. Here we have applied atomic force microscopy and single molecule force spectroscopy to study the amyloidogenesis of a peptide derived from human amylin and of its reverse sequence. The spontaneous formation of protofibrils and their orientation along well-defined directions on graphite and DMSO-coated graphite substrates make the studied peptides interesting candidates for nanotechnological applications. The measured binding forces between peptides correlate with the number of hydrogen bonds between individual peptides inside the fibril structure according to molecular dynamics simulations.

Keywords: Amyloid fibril, Amyloidogenesis, Binding forces, Fibril structure, Graphite substrate, Molecular dynamics simulations, Nanometrics, Protofibrils, Single molecule force spectroscopy, Spontaneous formation, Atomic force microscopy, Atomic spectroscopy, Graphite, Hydrogen bonds, Medical nanotechnology, Molecular dynamics, Molecular physics, Self assembly, Thickness measurement, Peptides


Redondo, L., Giannotti, M. I., Sanz, F., (2012). Stability of lipid bilayers as model membranes: Atomic force microscopy and spectroscopy approach Atomic force microscopy in liquid (ed. Baró, A. M., Reifenberger, R. G.), Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co.KGaA (Weinheim, Germany) Part I: General Atomic Force Microscopy, 259-284

Garcia-Manyes, S., Sanz, F., (2010). Nanomechanics of lipid bilayers by force spectroscopy with AFM: A perspective Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes 1798, (4), 741-749

Lipid bilayers determine the architecture of cell membranes and regulate a myriad of distinct processes that are highly dependent on the lateral organization of the phospholipid molecules that compose the membrane. Indeed, the mechanochemical properties of the membrane are strongly correlated with the function of several membrane proteins, which demand a very specific, highly localized physicochemical environment to perform their function. Several mesoscopic techniques have been used in the past to investigate the mechanical properties of lipid membranes. However, they were restricted to the study of the ensemble properties of giant bilayers. Force spectroscopy with AFM has emerged as a powerful technique able to provide valuable insights into the nanomechanical properties of supported lipid membranes at the nanometer/nanonewton scale in a wide variety of systems. In particular, these measurements have allowed direct measurement of the molecular interactions arising between neighboring phospholipid molecules and between the lipid molecules and the surrounding solvent environment. The goal of this review is to illustrate how these novel experiments have provided a new vista on membrane mechanics in a confined area within the nanometer realm, where most of the specific molecular interactions take place. Here we report in detail the main discoveries achieved by force spectroscopy with AFM on supported lipid bilayers, and we also discuss on the exciting future perspectives offered by this growing research field.

Keywords: Force spectroscopy, Atomic force microscopy, Lipid bilayer, Nanomechanics


Torrent-Burgues, J., Oncins, G., Sanz, F., (2008). Study of mixed Langmuir and Langmuir-Blodgett films of dissimilar components by AFM and force spectroscopy Colloids and Surfaces a-Physicochemical and Engineering Aspects 12th International Conference on Organized Molecular Films , Elsevier Science (Krakow, Poland) 321, (1-3), 70-75

In this study the structure of mixed Langmuir-Blodgett (LB) monolayers has been investigated using atomic force microscopy, lateral force microscopy and force spectroscopy, as well as the characteristics of the Langmuir monolayers by surface pressure-area isotherms and Brewster angle microscopy. Mixed films were of dissimilar compounds, a fatty acid such as arachidic acid and a macrocyclic compound. The mixture forms separated phases, but some degree of partial miscibility occurs, with domains at the micro-scale that have different nanomechanical and nanotribological properties. LB films transferred at the same surface pressure show different characteristics depending on the composition. The higher domains correspond to arachidic acid and some of these domains show the presence of two phases, which have been identified as phases with discrete molecular tilting angles.

Keywords: Mixed monolayers, Pressure-area isotherm, Langmuir-Blodgett, AFM, Force spectroscopy