Quality control of direct cell–mineral adhesion measurements in air and liquid using inverse AFM imaging†
The study of interaction forces between biological and non-living systems requires in-house production of probes modified with, e.g., bacterial cells or with minerals, in order to map irregularly shaped natural surfaces. In order to avoid artifacts, it is essential to control the functionality of the modified probes. Current methods for this purpose require removing the modified probe from the liquid-cell, inserting it into another device and/or have a too low resolution to detect local changes within the interacting areas. Therefore, we present a fast and cost-effective method that overcomes the above mentioned problems by the inverse AFM imaging principle. First, the 3-D shape of a fresh sharp AFM tip is modeled by measuring the shape of a standard rough pattern and post blind tip reconstruction analysis. The so calibrated characterizer tip was extracted and upside-down fixed rigidly on a disc together with the sample. Before and after the cell–mineral interaction, the modified probe is then inversely imaged by the fixed characterizer controlling changes in finest 3-D details of the modified probe. The characterization of probes modified with kaolinite and P. fluorescens cells and their interactions with R. erythropolis and montmorillonite samples show that the method allows a fast precise investigation of tip modifications before and after cell–mineral interactions in air and liquid such that artifacts in adhesion between cell and mineral at the single-cell level can be excluded.