Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a powerful tool for analysing the shapes of individual molecules and the forces acting on them. AFM-based force spectroscopy provides insights into the structural and energetic dynamics of biomolecules by probing the interactions within individual molecules, or between a surface-bound molecule and a cantilever that carries a complementary binding partner. Here, we show that an AFM cantilever with an antibody tether can measure the distances between 5-methylcytidine bases in individual DNA strands with a resolution of 4 Å, thereby revealing the DNA methylation pattern, which has an important role in the epigenetic control of gene expression. The antibody is able to bind two 5-methylcytidine bases of a surface-immobilized DNA strand, and retracting the cantilever results in a unique rupture signature reflecting the spacing between two tagged bases. This nanomechanical approach might also allow related chemical patterns to be retrieved from biopolymers at the single-molecule level.
- Cytidine/analogs & derivatives
- DNA Methylation
- DNA, Single-Stranded/chemistry
- Epigenesis, Genetic
- Microscopy, Atomic Force
- Nucleic Acid Conformation