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J R Soc Interface. 2008 Jan 6;5(18):15-45.

Single-molecule biophysics: at the interface of biology, physics and chemistry.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Single-molecule methods have matured into powerful and popular tools to probe the complex behaviour of biological molecules, due to their unique abilities to probe molecular structure, dynamics and function, unhindered by the averaging inherent in ensemble experiments. This review presents an overview of the burgeoning field of single-molecule biophysics, discussing key highlights and selected examples from its genesis to our projections for its future. Following brief introductions to a few popular single-molecule fluorescence and manipulation methods, we discuss novel insights gained from single-molecule studies in key biological areas ranging from biological folding to experiments performed in vivo.

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