Recently, there have been significant advancements in dynamic-mode atomic force microscopy (AFM) for biological applications. With frequency modulation AFM (FM-AFM), subnanometer-scale surface structures of biomolecules such as secondary structures of proteins, phosphate groups of DNAs, and lipid-ion complexes have been directly visualized. In addition, three-dimensional AFM (3D-AFM) has been developed by combining a high-resolution AFM technique with a 3D tip scanning method. This method enabled visualization of 3D distributions of water (i.e. hydration structures) with subnanometer-scale resolution on various biological molecules such as lipids, proteins, and DNAs. Furthermore, 3D-AFM also allows visualization of subnanometer-scale 3D distributions of flexible surface structures such as thermally fluctuating lipid headgroups. Such a direct local information at nano-bio interfaces can play a critical role in determining the atomic- or molecular-scale model to explain interfacial structures and functions. Here, we present an overview of these recent advancements in the dynamic-mode AFM techniques and their biological applications.

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