Multiparametric atomic force microscopy imaging of single bacteriophages extruding from living bacteria

Nat Commun. 2013;4:2926. doi: 10.1038/ncomms3926.


Force-distance (FD) curve-based atomic force microscopy is a valuable tool to simultaneously image the structure and map the biophysical properties of biological samples at the nanoscale. Traditionally, FD-based atomic force microscopy has been severely limited by its poor temporal and lateral resolutions. Here we report the use of advanced FD-based technology combined with biochemically sensitive tips to image filamentous bacteriophages extruding from living bacteria at unprecedented speed and resolution. Directly correlated multiparametric images of the structure, adhesion and elasticity of infected bacteria demonstrate that the sites of assembly and extrusion localize at the bacterial septum in the form of soft nanodomains surrounded by stiff cell wall material. The quantitative nano-bio-imaging method presented here offers a wealth of opportunities for mapping the physical properties and molecular interactions of complex biosystems, from viruses to tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacterial Adhesion
  • Bacteriophages* / ultrastructure
  • Cell Wall / ultrastructure
  • Escherichia coli / virology*
  • Fluorescence
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force / methods*