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Controlled unzipping of a bacterial surface layer with atomic force microscopy

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Müller, D. J., Baumeister, W., & Engel, A. (1999). Controlled unzipping of a bacterial surface layer with atomic force microscopy. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 96(23), 13170-13174.

We have combined high-resolution atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging and force spectroscopy to gain insight into the interaction forces between the individual protomers of the hexagonally packed intermediate (HPI) layer of Deinococcus radiodurans, After imaging the HPI layer, the AFM stylus was attached to individual protomers by enforced stylus-sample contact to allow force spectroscopy experiments. Imaging of the HPI layer after recording force-extension curves allowed adhesion forces to be correlated with structural alterations. By using this approach, individual protomers of the HPI layer were found to be removed at pulling forces of approximate to 300 pN. Furthermore, it was possible to sequentially unzip entire bacterial pores formed by six HPI protomers, The combination of high-resolution AFM imaging of individual proteins with the determination of their intramolecular forces is a method of studying the mechanical stability of supramolecular structures at the level of single molecules. [References: 28]