Structural dynamics of channels and transporters by high-speed atomic force microscopy

Methods Enzymol. 2021:652:127-159. doi: 10.1016/bs.mie.2021.03.011. Epub 2021 Apr 24.


Channels and transporters are vital for transmembrane transport of ions and solutes, and also of larger compounds such as lipids and macromolecules. Therefore, they are crucial in many biological processes such as sensing, signal transduction, and the regulation of the distribution of molecules. Dysfunctions of these membrane proteins are associated to numerous diseases, and their interaction with drugs is critical in medicine. Understanding the behavior of channels and transporters requires structural and dynamic information to decipher the molecular mechanisms underlying their function. High-Speed Atomic Force Microscopy (HS-AFM) now allows the study of single transmembrane channels and transporters in action under physiological conditions, i.e., at ambient temperature and pressure, in physiological buffer and in a membrane, and in a most direct, label-free manner. In this chapter, we discuss the HS-AFM sample preparation, application, and data analysis protocols to study the structural and conformational dynamics of membrane-embedded channels and transporters.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy; Conformational change; Dynamics; High-speed atomic force microscopy; Imaging; Ion channel; Kinetics; Transporter.

MeSH terms

  • Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins*
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force


  • Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Membrane Transport Proteins