Scanning probe and optical tweezer investigations of biomolecular interactions
A complex array of intermolecular forces controls the interactions between and within biological molecules. The desire to empirically explore these fundamental forces has led to the development of several biophysical techniques. Of these, the atomic force microscope (AFM) and the optical tweezers have been employed throughout this thesis to monitor the intermolecular forces involved in biomolecular interactions. The AFM is a well-established force sensing technique capable of measuring biomolecular interactions at a single molecule level. However, its versatility has not been extrapolated to the investigation of a drug-enzyme complex. The energy landscape for the force induced dissociation of the DHFR-methotrexate complex was studied. Revealing an energy barrier to dissociation located ~0.3nm from the bound state. Unfortunately, the AFM has a limited range of accessible loading rates and in order to profile the complete energy landscape alternative force sensing instrumentation should be considered, for example the BFP and optical tweezers. Thus, this thesis outlines the development and construction of an optical trap capable of measuring intermolecular forces between biomolecules at the single molecule level. To demonstrate the force sensing abilities of the optical set up, proof of principle measurements were performed which investigate the interactions between proteins and polymer surfaces subjected to varying degrees of argon plasma treatment. Complementary data was gained from measurements performed independently by the AFM. Changes in polymer resistance to proteins as a response to changes in polymer surface chemistry were detected utilising both AFM and optical tweezers measurements. Finally, the AFM and optical tweezers were employed as ultrasensitive biosensors. Single molecule investigations of the antibody-antigen interaction between the cardiac troponin I marker and its complementary antibody, reveals the impact therapeutic concentrations of heparin have up on the association and dissociation of the complex. In the thesis the AFM and optical tweezers independently provide complementary data towards the understanding of biomolecular interactions.