The last decade has seen rapid development in single molecule manipulation of RNA and DNA. Measuring the response force for a particular manipulation has allowed the free energies of various nucleic acid structures and configurations to be determined. Optical tweezers represent a class of single molecule experiments that allows the energies and structural dynamics of DNA to be probed up to and beyond the transition from the double helix to its melted single strands. These experiments are capable of high force resolution over a wide dynamic range. Additionally, these investigations may be compared with results obtained when the nucleic acids are in the presence of proteins or other binding ligands. These ligands may bind into the major or minor groove of the double helix, intercalate between bases or associate with an already melted single strand of DNA. By varying solution conditions and the pulling dynamics, energetic and dynamic information may be deduced about the mechanisms of binding to nucleic acids, providing insight into the function of proteins and the utility of drug treatments.
(c) 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.