European Biophysics Journal

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 335–343 | Cite as

Alignment of biological microparticles by a polarized laser beam

  • Győző GarabEmail author
  • Péter Galajda
  • István Pomozi
  • Laura Finzi
  • Tünde Praznovszky
  • Pál Ormos
  • Herbert van Amerongen


The optical alignment of biological samples is of great relevance to microspectrometry and to the micromanipulation of single particles. Recently, Bayoudh et al. (J. Mod. Opt. 50:1581–1590, 2003) have shown that isolated, disk-shaped chloroplasts can be aligned in a controlled manner using an in-plane-polarized Gaussian beam trap, and suggested that this is due to their nonspherical shape. Here we demonstrate that the orientation of various micrometer-sized isolated biological particles, trapped by optical tweezers, can be altered in a controlled way by changing the plane of linear polarization of the tweezers. In addition to chloroplasts, we show that subchloroplast particles of small size and irregular overall shape, aggregated photosynthetic light-harvesting protein complexes as well as chromosomes can be oriented with the linearly polarized beam of the tweezers. By using a laser scanning confocal microscope equipped with a differential polarization attachment, we also measured the birefringence of magnetically oriented granal chloroplasts, and found that they exhibit strong birefringence with large local variations, which appears to originate from stacked membranes. The size and sign of the birefringence are such that the resulting anisotropic interaction with the linearly polarized laser beam significantly contributes to the torque orienting the chloroplasts.


Birefringence Chloroplast Chromosome Laser tweezers Optical alignment 



This work was supported by grants from the Hungarian Research Fund (OTKA T42696, T034188, T034393 and T046747) and from EU-FP6 (ATOM3D/508952 and MCRTN/INTRO2 505069) to P.O. and G.G.. The technical support by Georg Weiss and Reinhard Jörgens (Carl Zeiss Jena, Germany) in the construction of the differential polarization attachment to the Zeiss LSM 410 is gratefully acknowledged. H.v.A. acknowledges the support of the Ultra Programme of the European Science Foundation for visiting grant 62551C SV 16. A short-term European Science Foundation Femtochemistry and Femtobiology Programme fellowship and FIRST from the University of Milan were awarded to L.F. The authors are indebted to Zsuzsanna Várkonyi for the LHCII preparation, and to László Menczel for the construction of the microscopic electro-optical cell used for the alignment of chloroplasts in an external electric field.


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Copyright information

© EBSA 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Győző Garab
    • 1
    Email author
  • Péter Galajda
    • 2
  • István Pomozi
    • 1
  • Laura Finzi
    • 4
  • Tünde Praznovszky
    • 3
  • Pál Ormos
    • 2
  • Herbert van Amerongen
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Institute of Plant BiologyHungarian Academy of SciencesSzegedHungary
  2. 2.Institute of Biophysics and Institute of GeneticsHungarian Academy of SciencesSzegedHungary
  3. 3.Biological Research CenterHungarian Academy of SciencesSzegedHungary
  4. 4.Dipartimento di Biologia e Centro Interdipartimentale Materiali e Interfacce Nanostrutturate (CIMAINA)University of MilanMilanItaly
  5. 5.Department of Biophysics and Physics of Complex Systems, Division of Physics and Astronomy Faculty of SciencesVrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Laboratory of Biophysics, Department of Agrotechnology and Food SciencesWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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