Measuring molecular elasticity by atomic force microscope cantilever fluctuations.
Author: Bryan T Marshall
In single-molecule mechanics experiments the molecular elasticity is usually measured from the deformation in response to a controlled applied force, e.g., via an atomic force microscope cantilever. We have tested the validity of an alternative method based on a recently developed theory. The concept is to measure the change in thermal fluctuations of the cantilever tip with and without its coupling to a rigid surface via the molecule. The new method was demonstrated by its application to the elasticity measurements of L- and P-selectin complexed with P-selectin glycoprotein ligand-1 or their respective antibodies, which showed values comparable to those measured from the slope of the force-extension curve. L- and P-selectin were found to behave as nearly linear springs capable of sustaining large forces and strains without sudden unfolding. The measured spring constants of approximately 4 and approximately 1 pN/nm for L- and P-selectin, respectively, suggest that a physiological force of approximately 100 pN would result in an approximately 200% strain for the respective selectins.