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Int J Mol Sci. 2011;12(4):2518-42. doi: 10.3390/ijms12042518. Epub 2011 Apr 15.

Functioning nanomachines seen in real-time in living bacteria using single-molecule and super-resolution fluorescence imaging.

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Biochemistry Department, South Parks Road, Oxford University, Oxford OX1 3QU, UK; E-Mail:


Molecular machines are examples of "pre-established" nanotechnology, driving the basic biochemistry of living cells. They encompass an enormous range of function, including fuel generation for chemical processes, transport of molecular components within the cell, cellular mobility, signal transduction and the replication of the genetic code, amongst many others. Much of our understanding of such nanometer length scale machines has come from in vitro studies performed in isolated, artificial conditions. Researchers are now tackling the challenges of studying nanomachines in their native environments. In this review, we outline recent in vivo investigations on nanomachines in model bacterial systems using state-of-the-art genetics technology combined with cutting-edge single-molecule and super-resolution fluorescence microscopy. We conclude that single-molecule and super-resolution fluorescence imaging provide powerful tools for the biochemical, structural and functional characterization of biological nanomachines. The integrative spatial, temporal, and single-molecule data obtained simultaneously from fluorescence imaging open an avenue for systems-level single-molecule cellular biophysics and in vivo biochemistry.


fluorescence microscopy; fluorescent protein; in vivo imaging; molecular machine; nanomachine; photobleach; single molecule; slimfield; super-resolution; total internal reflection

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