Life on biomembranes viewed with the atomic force microscope

Hans Oberleithner, John Geibel, William Guggino, Robert M. Henderson, Malcolm Hunter, Stefan W. Schneider, Albrecht Schwab, Wenhui Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Since its invention in 1986, the atomic force microscope (AFM) has become one of the most widely used near-field microscopes. Surfaces of hard samples are imaged almost routinely with atomic resolution. Soft biological surfaces, however, are still challenging. In this brief review, the AFM technique is introduced to the experimental biologist. We discuss recent data on imaging molecular structures of biomembranes, and give detailed information on the application of the AFM with three representative examples. One is imaging plasma membrane turnover of transformed renal epithelial cells during migration in vivo, another is visualizing a cloned and isolated potassium channel usually located in kidney, and a third is imaging macromolecular pore complexes of the nuclear envelope of aldosterone- sensitive kidney cells and of Xenopus laevis oocytes. The review ends with the conclusion that nuclear pores can serve as birthday candles on a Guglhupf.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-423
Number of pages5
JournalWiener Klinische Wochenschrift
Issue number12-13
StatePublished - Aug 12 1997


  • Atomic force microscopy
  • Kidney
  • Nuclear pore
  • Potassium channel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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