A high-resolution magnetic tweezer for single-molecule measurements.

Materials Department, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.
Nucleic Acids Research (Impact Factor: 8.81). 10/2009; 37(20):e136. DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkp725
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Magnetic tweezers (MT) are single-molecule manipulation instruments that utilize a magnetic field to apply force to a biomolecule-tethered magnetic bead while using optical bead tracking to measure the biomolecule's extension. While relatively simple to set up, prior MT implementations have lacked the resolution necessary to observe sub-nanometer biomolecular configuration changes. Here, we demonstrate a reflection-interference technique for bead tracking, and show that it has much better resolution than traditional diffraction-based systems. We enhance the resolution by fabricating optical coatings on all reflecting surfaces that optimize the intensity and contrast of the interference image, and we implement feedback control of the focal position to remove drift. To test the system, we measure the length change of a DNA hairpin as it undergoes a folding/unfolding transition.

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    ABSTRACT: Magnetic tweezers are a powerful single-molecule technique that allows real-time quantitative investigation of biomolecular processes under applied force. High pulling forces exceeding tens of picoNewtons may be required, e.g. to probe the force range of proteins that actively transcribe or package the genome. Frequently, however, the application of such forces decreases the sample lifetime, hindering data acquisition. To provide experimentally viable sample lifetimes in the face of high pulling forces, we have designed a novel anchoring strategy for DNA in magnetic tweezers. Our approach, which exploits covalent functionalization based on heterobifunctional poly(ethylene glycol) crosslinkers, allows us to strongly tether DNA while simultaneously suppressing undesirable non-specific adhesion. A complete force and lifetime characterization of these covalently anchored DNA-tethers demonstrates that, compared to more commonly employed anchoring strategies, they withstand 3-fold higher pulling forces (up to 150 pN) and exhibit up to 200-fold higher lifetimes (exceeding 24 h at a constant force of 150 pN). This advance makes it possible to apply the full range of biologically relevant force scales to biomolecular processes, and its straightforward implementation should extend its reach to a multitude of applications in the field of single-molecule force spectroscopy.
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    ABSTRACT: The possibility to observe microsecond dynamics at the sub-micron scale, opened by recent technological advances in fast camera sensors, will affect many biophysical studies based on particle tracking in optical microscopy. A main limiting factor for further development of fast video microscopy remains the illumination of the sample, which must deliver sufficient light to the camera to allow microsecond exposure times. Here we systematically compare the main illumination systems employed in holographic tracking microscopy, and we show that a superluminescent diode and a modulated laser diode perform the best in terms of image quality and acquisition speed, respectively. In particular, we show that the simple and inexpensive laser illumination enables less than [Formula: see text]s camera exposure time at high magnification on a large field of view without coherence image artifacts, together with a good hologram quality that allows nm-tracking of microscopic beads to be performed. This comparison of sources can guide in choosing the most efficient illumination system with respect to the specific application.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(9):e107335. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Measurements in magnetic tweezers rely upon precise determination of the position of a magnetic microsphere. Fluctuations in the position due to Brownian motion allows calculation of the applied force, enabling deduction of the force-extension response function for a single DNA molecule that is attached to the microsphere. The standard approach relies upon using the mean of position fluctuations, which is valid when the microsphere axial position fluctuations obey a normal distribution. However, here we demonstrate that nearby surfaces and the non-linear elasticity of DNA can skew the distribution. Through experiment and simulations, we show that such a skewing leads to inaccurate position measurements which significantly affect the extracted DNA extension and mechanical properties, leading to up to two-fold errors in measured DNA persistence length. We develop a simple, robust and easily implemented method to correct for such mismeasurements.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(9):e108271. · 3.53 Impact Factor


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