Protein folding at single-molecule resolution

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Aug;1814(8):1021-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbapap.2011.01.011. Epub 2011 Feb 17.


The protein folding reaction carries great significance for cellular function and hence continues to be the research focus of a large interdisciplinary protein science community. Single-molecule methods are providing new and powerful tools for dissecting the mechanisms of this complex process by virtue of their ability to provide views of protein structure and dynamics without associated ensemble averaging. This review briefly introduces common FRET and force methods, and then explores several areas of protein folding where single-molecule experiments have yielded insights. These include exciting new information about folding landscapes, dynamics, intermediates, unfolded ensembles, intrinsically disordered proteins, assisted folding and biomechanical unfolding. Emerging and future work is expected to include advances in single-molecule techniques aimed at such investigations, and increasing work on more complex systems from both the physics and biology standpoints, including folding and dynamics of systems of interacting proteins and of proteins in cells and organisms. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Protein Dynamics: Experimental and Computational Approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
  • Ligands
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force
  • Molecular Chaperones / chemistry
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Folding*
  • Proteins / chemistry*


  • Ligands
  • Molecular Chaperones
  • Proteins