Influence of pulling handles and device stiffness in single-molecule force spectroscopy

Phys Chem Chem Phys. 2011 Feb 7;13(5):1836-42. doi: 10.1039/c0cp01528h. Epub 2010 Oct 11.


In single-molecule force spectroscopy, individual molecules and complexes are often stretched by pulling devices via intervening molecular handles. Accurate interpretation of measurements from such experiments in terms of the underlying energy landscape, defined by activation barriers and intrinsic rates of transition, relies on our understanding, and proper theoretical treatment, of the effects of the pulling device and handle. Here, we present a framework based on Kramers' theory that elucidates the dependence of measured rupture forces and rates on the pulling device stiffness and attributes of the handle, contour length and persistence length. We also introduce a simple analytic model that improves prediction of activation barriers and intrinsic rates for all device stiffnesses and handle properties, thus allowing for a more reliable interpretation of experiments. Our analyses also suggests intuitive ways of displaying the measured force spectra for proper prognosis of device and handle effects and provides the range of device and handle attributes over which these effects can be neglected.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Kinetics
  • Mechanical Phenomena*
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / instrumentation*
  • Models, Molecular