We have imaged microtubules, essential structural elements of the cytoskeleton in eukaryotic cells, in physiological conditions by scanning force microscopy. We have achieved molecular resolution without the use of cross-linking and chemical fixation methods. With tip forces below 0.3 nN, protofilaments with similar to6 nm separation could be clearly distinguished. Lattice defects in the microtubule wall were directly visible, including point defects and protofilament separations. Higher tip forces destroyed the top half of the microtubules, revealing the inner surface of the substrate-attached protofilaments. Monomers could be resolved on these inner surfaces.
- atomic force microscopy
- scanning force microscopy