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Issue 22, 2013
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Nanoscale structural features determined by AFM for single virus particles

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In this work, we propose “single-image analysis”, as opposed to multi-image averaging, for extracting valuable information from AFM images of single bio-particles. This approach allows us to study molecular systems imaged by AFM under general circumstances without restrictions on their structural forms. As feature exhibition is a resolution correlation, we have performed AFM imaging on surfaces of tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) to demonstrate variations of structural patterns with probing resolution. Two AFM images were acquired with the same tip at different probing resolutions in terms of pixel width, i.e., 1.95 and 0.49 nm per pixel. For assessment, we have constructed an in silico topograph based on the three-dimensional crystal structure of TMV as a reference. The prominent artifacts observed in the AFM-determined shape of TMV were attributed to tip convolutions. The width of TMV rod was systematically overestimated by ∼10 nm at both probing resolutions of AFM. Nevertheless, the effects of tip convolution were less severe in vertical orientation so that the estimated height of TMV by AFM imaging was in close agreement with the in silico X-ray topograph. Using dedicated image processing algorithms, we found that at low resolution (i.e., 1.95 nm per pixel), the extracted surface features of TMV can be interpreted as a partial or full helical repeat (three complete turns with ∼7.0 nm in length), while individual protein subunits (∼2.5 nm) were perceivable only at high resolution. The present study shows that the scales of revealed structural features in AFM images are subject to both probing resolution and processing algorithms for image analysis.

Graphical abstract: Nanoscale structural features determined by AFM for single virus particles

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Publication details

The article was received on 24 May 2013, accepted on 12 Aug 2013 and first published on 14 Aug 2013

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C3NR02706F
Citation: Nanoscale, 2013,5, 10877-10886
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    Nanoscale structural features determined by AFM for single virus particles

    S. W. Chen, M. Odorico, M. Meillan, L. Vellutini, J. Teulon, P. Parot, B. Bennetau and J. Pellequer, Nanoscale, 2013, 5, 10877
    DOI: 10.1039/C3NR02706F

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