High-Resolution Atomic Force Microscopy Imaging of Nucleic Acids

  • Pablo Ares
  • Julio Gomez-Herrero
  • Fernando Moreno-HerreroEmail author
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1814)


Exploring the limits of spatial resolution has been a constant in the history of atomic force microscopy imaging. Since its invention in 1986, the AFM has beaten the barrier of resolution continuously, thanks to technical developments, miniaturization of tips, and implementation of new imaging modes. The double helix structure of DNA has been always at the horizon of resolution. Today, this milestone has been reached, not only imaging DNA but also its close relative double-stranded RNA. Here, we provide a comprehensive description of the methods employed and the steps required to image the helical periodicity of these two nucleic acids with the sample immersed in a buffer solution.

Key words

Atomic force microscopy Double-stranded DNA Double-stranded RNA AFM imaging methods 



We thank E. Herrero-Galan and C. Aicart for providing details of the protocol for dsRNA and dsDNA fabrication and A. Gil for critical reading of the manuscript. We thank the financial support from the Spanish MINECO/FEDER (projects MAT2016-77608-C3-3-P and The “María de Maeztu” Programme for Units of Excellence in R&D (MDM-2014-0377) to J.G.-H. and FIS2014-58328-P to F.M.-H.). F.M.-H. also acknowledges support from European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation (grant agreement No 681299).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pablo Ares
    • 1
  • Julio Gomez-Herrero
    • 1
    • 2
  • Fernando Moreno-Herrero
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Condensed Matter PhysicsUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Condensed Matter Physics Center (IFIMAC)Universidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  3. 3.Department of Macromolecular StructuresCentro Nacional de Biotecnología, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasMadridSpain

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