Simultaneous atomic force microscope and fluorescence measurements of protein unfolding using a calibrated evanescent wave
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A
Fluorescence techniques for monitoring single-molecule dynamics in the vertical dimension currently do not exist. Here we use an atomic force microscope to calibrate the distance-dependent intensity decay of an evanescent wave. The measured evanescent wave transfer function was then used to convert the vertical motions of a fluorescent particle into displacement (SD = <1 nm). We demonstrate the use of the calibrated evanescent wave to resolve the 20.1 ± 0.5-nm step increases in the length of the small protein ubiquitin during forced unfolding. The experiments that we report here make an important contribution to fluorescence microscopy by demonstrating the unambiguous optical tracking of a single molecule with a resolution comparable to that of an atomic force microscope.