High-resolution dual-trap optical tweezers with differential detection: An introduction

Carlos Bustamante, Yann R. Chemla, Jeffrey R. Moffitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCold Spring Harbor protocols
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 7 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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