Recent years have seen an increasing number of biological applications of single molecule techniques, evolving from a proof of principle type to the more sophisticated studies. Here we compare the capabilities and limitations of different single molecule techniques in studying the activities of helicases. Helicases share a common catalytic activity but present a high variability in kinetic and phenomenological behavior, making their studies ideal in exemplifying the use of the new single molecule techniques to answer biological questions. Unexpected phenomena have also been observed from individual molecules suggesting extended or alternative functionality of helicases in vivo.
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