Single-molecule pulling experiments: When the stiffness of the pulling device matters

Z. Tshiprut, J. Klafter, M. Urbakh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Using Langevin modeling, we investigate the role of the experimental setup on the unbinding forces measured in single-molecule pulling experiments. We demonstrate that the stiffness of the pulling device, Keff, may influence the unbinding forces through its effect on the barrier heights for both unbinding and rebinding processes. Under realistic conditions the effect of Keff on the rebinding barrier is shown to play the most important role. This results in a significant increase of the mean unbinding force with the stiffness for a given loading rate. Thus, in contrast to the phenomenological Bell model, we find that the loading rate (the multiplicative value KeffV, V being the pulling velocity) is not the only control parameter that determines the mean unbinding force. If interested in intrinsic properties of a molecular system, we recommend probing the system in the parameter range corresponding to a weak spring and relatively high loading rates where rebinding is negligible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L42-L44
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2008


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