Atomic force microscopy of the submolecular architecture of hydrated ocular mucins

Biophys J. 1999 Jul;77(1):533-41. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(99)76910-9.


High-resolution atomic force microscopy has been applied to the imaging of intact human ocular mucins in a near-physiological buffer. The mucins displayed a range of lengths from several hundred nanometers to several microns. By varying the ionic composition of the imaging environment, it was possible to image molecules rigidly fixed to the substrate and the motion of single molecules across the substrate. From static molecular images, high-resolution line profiles show a variation of up to +/-0.75 nm in thickness along the molecule. This variation is localized in regions of several tens of nanometers. It is interpreted in terms of the varying glycosylation along the mucin and is consistent with the known size of oligosaccharides in ocular mucins. The dynamic images indicate the possibility of following mucin interactions in situ.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biopolymers / chemistry
  • Chromatography, Gel
  • Conjunctiva / chemistry*
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Mucins / chemistry*
  • Mucins / ultrastructure
  • Oligosaccharides / chemistry
  • Particle Size


  • Biopolymers
  • Mucins
  • Oligosaccharides