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Biochem Cell Biol. 2003 Jun;81(3):151-9.

Magnetic tweezers: a sensitive tool to study DNA and chromatin at the single-molecule level.

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Department of Chemistry and Chemicl Engineering, Polytechnic University, Brooklyn, New York 11201, USA.


The advent of single-molecule biology has allowed unprecedented insight into the dynamic behavior of biological macromolecules and their complexes. Unexpected properties, masked by the asynchronous behavior of myriads of molecules in bulk experiments, can be revealed; equally importantly, individual members of a molecular population often exhibit distinct features in their properties. Finally, the single-molecule approaches allow us to study the behavior of biological macromolecules under applied tension or torsion; understanding the mechanical properties of these molecules helps us understand how they function in the cell. In this review, we summarize the application of magnetic tweezers (MT) to the study of DNA behavior at the single-molecule level. MT can be conveniently used to stretch DNA and introduce controlled levels of superhelicity into the molecule and to follow to a high definition the action of different types of topoisomerases. Its potential for chromatin studies is also enormous, and we will briefly present our first chromatin results.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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