Optical traps or "optical tweezers" have become an indispensable tool in understanding fundamental biological processes. The ability to manipulate and probe individual molecules or molecular complexes has led to a new, more refined understanding of the mechanical properties of the fundamental building blocks of the cell, and of the mechanism by which molecular machines function. The field has seen a steady stream of technological advances that have greatly refined the technique. One major effort has been in developing methods to resolve motions at the angstrom level - the fundamental length scale for many biological processes. This drive has only recently come to fruition with the advent of high-resolution optical trapping techniques that can now detect movements on the scale of a single base pair of DNA, 3.4 Å. Here we briefly review the basic concepts and components of optical traps and the single-molecule experiments in which they are used.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology