Single-crystal electrochemistry and scanning tunneling microscopy directly in aqueous electrolyte solution (in situ STM) are established in physical electrochemistry but new in studies of adsorption and interfacial electrochemistry of biological macromolecules. These high-resolution techniques have now been applied comprehensively to proteins and other biomolecules in recent studies, discussed in this report. Focus is on three systems. The first one is a pair of amino acids, cysteine and cystine. These are strongly adsorbed via thiolate and disulfide, respectively, with identical reductive desorption and in situ STM patterns. Long-range lateral order can be imaged to molecular resolution. The amino acids are also reference molecules for the blue single-copper protein Pseudomonas aeruginosa azurin. This protein assembles in two well-defined orientations. One applies on bare Au(111) to which the protein is linked via its surface disulfide group. This orients the copper center away from the electrode surface. The other mode is by hydrophobic interactions with variable-length alkanethiols self-assembled on Au(111). In this mode the copper center is directed towards the surface. Adsorption and long-range electron tunneling in both modes have been characterized in detail using different electrochemical and spectroscopic techniques, as well as STM. Other data show that penta-(A-T) oligonucleotide adsorbed via a covalently bound thiol linker also displays reductive desorption and in situ STM to molecular resolution. The three systems thus appear to open new perspectives for broader use of high-resolution electrochemical techniques in comprehensive investigations of large biological molecules.
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