JPK reports on the use of AFM and single-cell force spectroscopy at the
Interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center at Aarhus University, Denmark
Dr Rikke Meyer of iNANO at Aarhus University, Denmark, with her JPK NanoWizard SPM system:
photograph courtesy of Mikal Schlosser, Herlev, DK, www.mikals.dk.
December 11, 2012
JPK Instruments, a world-leading manufacturer of nanoanalytic instrumentation for research in life sciences and soft matter,
reports on the research studies of Dr Rikke Meyer who is looking into biofilm formation from bacteria using atomic force microscopy,
AFM, and single-cell force spectroscopy.
The interdisciplinary Nanoscience Center (iNANO) was formed by various research groups at Aarhus University together
with groups from the Faculty of Science at Aalborg University. iNANO comprises facilities for the synthesis of nanostructured
and nanopatterned 0D (i.e. nanoparticle), 1D, 2D and 3D materials.
The group of Dr Rikke Meyer works at the interface between microbiology and nanoscience in the quest to understand how bacteria
form biofilms and how this may be prevented. AFM and optical microscopy are used to visualize bacterial cells and to study the
interaction forces between cells and an abiotic substrate. AFM imaging and single-cell force spectroscopy are excellent tools
to visualize detailed structures on the bacterial cell surface and to study how these contribute to cell adhesion to other
The motivation for using AFM in Dr Meyer’s research was firstly to obtain detailed images of bacterial cells without extensive
sample preparation. Furthermore, as she is interested in the interactions between bacteria and abiotic surfaces, she and her
team use AFM force spectroscopy to quantify these interaction forces. AFM is one of several techniques used in these studies.
These also include brightfield microscopy, fluorescence microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy, scanning electron
microscopy and transmission electron microscopy.
Dr Meyer comments on her research and reasons behind her choice of AFM: “The coupling with optical microscopy is no doubt
the feature that was most important for me in deciding to go with an AFM from JPK. As a microbiologist, I work with very
heterogenous samples and it is not feasible to use AFM imaging to locate the field of interest, as large areas of the sample
are often visualized to locate a site of interest. In the combined system, we can use the optical image to locate cells of
interest before engaging the AFM for imaging or other measurements.” Continuing, she said, “AFM has mostly been used to study
bacterial cells that are isolated in pure culture. However, the vast majority of the bacterial species we know to date have
not been isolated and can only be studied in situ. Fluorescence labeling allows a rough identification of bacteria directly
in the sample and fluorescence imaging can thus be used to locate cells of interest before AFM imaging begins. The combination
of AFM with optical imaging is thus particularly important for the analysis of bacteria in environmental samples.”
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