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Annu Rev Anal Chem (Palo Alto Calif). 2010;3:109-28. doi: 10.1146/annurev.anchem.111808.073558.

Single-molecule DNA analysis.

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  • 1Helicos BioSciences Corporation, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA. jwefcavitch@helicosbio.com


The ability to detect single molecules of DNA or RNA has led to an extremely rich area of exploration of the single most important biomolecule in nature. In cases in which the nucleic acid molecules are tethered to a solid support, confined to a channel, or simply allowed to diffuse into a detection volume, novel techniques have been developed to manipulate the DNA and to examine properties such as structural dynamics and protein-DNA interactions. Beyond the analysis of the properties of nucleic acids themselves, single-molecule detection has enabled dramatic improvements in the throughput of DNA sequencing and holds promise for continuing progress. Both optical and nonoptical detection methods that use surfaces, nanopores, and zero-mode waveguides have been attempted, and one optically based instrument is already commercially available. The breadth of literature related to single-molecule DNA analysis is vast; this review focuses on a survey of efforts in molecular dynamics and nucleic acid sequencing.

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