Simple dark-field microscopy with nanometer spatial precision and microsecond temporal resolution

Biophys J. 2010 May 19;98(9):2014-23. doi: 10.1016/j.bpj.2010.01.011.


Molecular motors such as kinesin, myosin, and F(1)-ATPase are responsible for many important cellular processes. These motor proteins exhibit nanometer-scale, stepwise movements on micro- to millisecond timescales. So far, methods developed to measure these small and fast movements with high spatial and temporal resolution require relatively complicated experimental systems. Here, we describe a simple dark-field imaging system that employs objective-type evanescent illumination to selectively illuminate a thin layer on the coverslip and thus yield images with high signal/noise ratios. Only by substituting the dichroic mirror in conventional objective-type total internal reflection fluorescence microscope with a perforated mirror, were nanometer spatial precision and microsecond temporal resolution simultaneously achieved. This system was applied to the study of the rotary mechanism of F(1)-ATPase. The fluctuation of a gold nanoparticle attached to the gamma-subunit during catalytic dwell and the stepping motion during torque generation were successfully visualized with 9.1-mus temporal resolution. Because of the simple optics, this system will be applicable to various biophysical studies requiring high spatial and temporal resolution in vitro and also in vivo.

MeSH terms

  • Bacillus / enzymology
  • Darkness*
  • Glass / chemistry
  • Gold / chemistry
  • Lighting
  • Metal Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Microscopy / instrumentation
  • Microscopy / methods*
  • Molecular Imaging / instrumentation
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*
  • Movement
  • Nanotechnology*
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Water / chemistry


  • Water
  • Gold
  • Proton-Translocating ATPases