Near-Field Terahertz Morphological Reconstruction Nanoscopy for Subsurface Imaging of Protein Layers

Zhongbo Yang, Dandan Li, Ligang Chen, Fucheng Qiu, Shihan Yan, Mingjie Tang, Chunlei Wang, Lihua Wang, Yang Luo, Fei Sun, Jiaguang Han, Chunhai Fan, Jiang Li and Huabin Wang

ACS Nano 18, 10104 (2024)
Protein layers formed on solid surfaces have important applications in various fields. High-resolution characterization of the morphological structures of protein forms in the process of developing protein layers has significant implications for the control of the layer’s quality as well as for the evaluation of the layer’s performance. However, it remains challenging to precisely characterize all possible morphological structures of protein in various forms, including individuals, networks, and layers involved in the formation of protein layers with currently available methods. Here, we report a terahertz (THz) morphological reconstruction nanoscopy (THz-MRN), which can reveal the nanoscale three-dimensional structural information on a protein sample from its THz near-field image by exploiting an extended finite dipole model for a thin sample. THz-MRN allows for both surface imaging and subsurface imaging with a vertical resolution of ∼0.5 nm, enabling the characterization of various forms of proteins at the single-molecule level. We demonstrate the imaging and morphological reconstruction of single immunoglobulin G (IgG) molecules, their networks, a monolayer, and a heterogeneous double layer comprising an IgG monolayer and a horseradish peroxidase-conjugated anti-IgG layer. The established THz-MRN presents a useful approach for the label-free and nondestructive study of the formation of protein layers.