A hybrid atomic force microscopy (AFM)-optical fluorescence microscopy is a powerful tool for investigating cellular morphologies and events. However, the slow data acquisition rates of the conventional AFM unit of the hybrid system limit the visualization of structural changes during cellular events. Therefore, high-speed AFM units equipped with an optical/fluorescence detection device have been a long-standing wish. Here we describe the implementation of high-speed AFM coupled with an optical fluorescence microscope. This was accomplished by developing a tip-scanning system, instead of a sample-scanning system, which operates on an inverted optical microscope. This novel device enabled the acquisition of high-speed AFM images of morphological changes in individual cells. Using this instrument, we conducted structural studies of living HeLa and 3T3 fibroblast cell surfaces. The improved time resolution allowed us to image dynamic cellular events.
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