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.
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