Probing the interaction of individual amino acids with inorganic surfaces using atomic force spectroscopy

Yair Razvag, Vitaly Gutkin, Meital Reches

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article describes single-molecule force spectroscopy measurements of the interaction between individual amino acid residues and inorganic surfaces in an aqueous solution. In each measurement, there is an amino acid residue, lysine, glutamate, phenylalanine, leucine, or glutamine, and each represents a class of amino acids (positively or negatively charged, aromatic, nonpolar, and polar). Force-distance curves measured the interaction of the individual amino acid bound to a silicon atomic force microscope (AFM) tip with a silcon substrate, cut from a single-crystal wafer, or mica. Using this method, we were able to measure low adhesion forces (below 300 pN) and could clearly determine the strength of interactions between the individual amino acid residues and the inorganic substrate. In addition, we observed how changes in the pH and ionic strength of the solution affected the adsorption of the residues to the substrates. Our results pinpoint the important role of hydrophobic interactions among the amino acids and the substrate, where hydrophobic phenylalanine exhibited the strongest adhesion to a silicon substrate. Additionally, electrostatic interactions also contributed to the adsorption of amino acid residues to inorganic substrates. A change in the pH or ionic strength values of the buffer altered the strength of interactions among the amino acids and the substrate. We concluded that the interplay between the hydrophobic forces and electrostatic interactions will determine the strength of adsorption among the amino acids and the surface. Overall, these results contribute to our understanding of the interaction at the organic-inorganic interface. These results may have implications for our perception of the specificity of peptide binding to inorganic surfaces. Consequently, it would possibly lead to a better design of composite materials and devices.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)10102-10109
Number of pages8
Issue number32
StatePublished - 13 Aug 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Spectroscopy
  • General Materials Science
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Electrochemistry


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