Synopsis: Mechanical proteins

New techniques measure mechanical properties of proteins without damaging them.
Synopsis figure
Credit: Yong Wang

Nanorheology⎯the study of deformation of matter, particularly complex molecules, at the nanoscale⎯is beginning to give a clearer picture of the mechanics of biological macromolecules such as proteins and short DNA strands, both of which can act as molecular springs.

In their paper in Physical Review Letters, Yong Wang and Giovanni Zocchi at the University of California, Los Angeles, apply the techniques of rheology to the motion of charged gold nanoparticles tethered to a gold surface by globular proteins.

The particles are driven by an alternating current that produces deformations in the protein chain. With evanescent scattered light from a laser, the authors probe the frequency-controlled motion of the protein and determine its spring constant and friction coefficient. The deformations are small, leading to a strain of only around 1%, allowing the authors to measure mechanical properties of the protein without damaging it, an advantage over other common methods. – Sami Mitra


Announcements

More Announcements »

Subject Areas

Soft MatterBiological PhysicsInterdisciplinary Physics

Previous Synopsis

Soft Matter

Adapting to habitat

Read More »

Next Synopsis

Particles and Fields

A question of size

Read More »

Related Articles

Focus: How to Compare Books or Genomes
Complex Systems

Focus: How to Compare Books or Genomes

A mathematical technique for comparing large symbol sets suggests that less frequently used words are mainly responsible for the evolution of the English language over the past two centuries. Read More »

Viewpoint: Turning Down the Volume on Granular Materials
Statistical Physics

Viewpoint: Turning Down the Volume on Granular Materials

A reformulation of the statistical mechanics of granular materials replaces the volume of the material with a function related to its structure. Read More »

Synopsis: Playing Games with Schrödinger
Interdisciplinary Physics

Synopsis: Playing Games with Schrödinger

Models that treat economic and biological behavior in terms of game-play resemble quantum mechanics. Read More »

More Articles