Saturday, February 7, 2009

Folding and unfolding single RNA molecules under tension

Michael T Woodside, Cuauhtémoc García-García and Steven M Block

Single-molecule force spectroscopy constitutes a powerful method for probing RNA folding: It allows the kinetic, energetic, and structural properties of intermediate and transition states to be determined quantitatively, yielding new insights into folding pathways and energy landscapes. Recent advances in experimental and theoretical methods, including fluctuation theorems, kinetic theories, novel force clamps, and ultrastable instruments, have opened new avenues for study. These tools have been used to probe folding in simple model systems, for example, RNA and DNA hairpins. Knowledge gained from such systems is helping to build our understanding of more complex RNA structures composed of multiple elements, as well as how nucleic acids interact with proteins involved in key cellular activities, such as transcription and translation.


A hybrid total internal reflection fluorescence and optical tweezers microscope to study cell adhesion and membrane protein dynamics of single living

Snijder-Van As, MI, Rieger, B, Joosten, B, Subramaniam, V, Figdor, CG, Kanger, JS

The dynamics of cell surface membrane proteins plays an important role in cell–cell interactions. The onset of the interaction is typically not precisely controlled by current techniques, making especially difficult the visualization of early-stage dynamics. We have developed a novel method where optical tweezers are used to trap cells and precisely control in space and time the initiation of interactions between a cell and a functionalized surface. This approach is combined with total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy to monitor dynamics of membrane bound proteins. We demonstrate an accuracy of ∼2 s in determining the onset of the interaction. Furthermore, we developed a data analysis method to determine the dynamics of cell adhesion and the organization of membrane molecules at the contact area. We demonstrate and validate this approach by studying the dynamics of the green fluorescent protein tagged membrane protein activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule expressed in K562 cells upon interaction with its ligand CD6 immobilized on a coated substrate. The measured cell spreading is in excellent agreement with existing theoretical models. Active redistribution of activated leukocyte cell adhesion molecule is observed from a clustered to a more homogenous distribution upon contact initiation. This redistribution follows exponential decay behaviour with a characteristic time of 35 s.


Reversal of the optical force in a plasmonic trap

Lina Huang and Olivier J. F. Martin

We study in detail the optical forces generated by a plasmonic trap on a plasmonic nanoparticle. The permittivity of the trapped particle is tuned using a Drude model. The interplay between the plasmon resonances of the trap and of the particle can produce different regimes leading to attractive or repulsive forces. Hence a particle will be trapped or repulsed depending on its permittivity. Such a physical system should provide new functionalities for lab-on-the-chip applications.


Optical bistability driven by the light-induced forces between metal nanoparticles

Sergey V. Perminov, Vladimir P. Drachev, and Sergey G. Rautian

A motion-induced optical bistability is shown for a metal nanoparticle dimer that is plasmon coupled and bound with dispersion (colloidal) forces. The effect does not require any material nonlinearity.


Light at work: The use of optical forces for particle manipulation, sorting, and analysis

Alexandr Jonás, Pavel Zemánek

We review the combinations of optical micro-manipulation with other techniques and their classical and emerging applications to non-contact optical separation and sorting of micro- and nanoparticle suspensions, compositional and structural analysis of specimens, and quantification of force interactions at the microscopic scale. The review aims at inspiring researchers, especially those working outside the optical micro-manipulation field, to find new and interesting applications of these methods.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Commercial optical traps emerge from biophysics labs

Jermey N. A. Matthews

What if determining your blood type took a few seconds and a few dozen red blood cells instead of several minutes and milliliters of blood? To that end, one company is building on a two-decades-old invention that harnesses laser radiation to noninvasively trap and manipulate submicroscopic particles.