Quantitative study of polymer conformation and dynamics by single- particle tracking

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We present a new method for analyzing the dynamics of conformational fluctuations of individual flexible polymer molecules. In single-particle tracking (SPT), one end of the polymer molecule is tethered to an immobile substratum. A microsphere attached to the other end serves as an optical marker. The conformational fluctuations of the polymer molecule can be measured by optical microscopy via the motion of the microsphere. The bead- and-spring theory for polymer dynamics is further developed to account for the microsphere, and together the measurement and the theory yield quantitative information about molecular conformations and dynamics under nonperturbing conditions. Applying the method to measurements carried out on DNA molecules provides information complementary to recent studies of single DNA molecules under extensional force. Combining high precision measurements with the theoretical analysis presented here creates a powerful tool for studying conformational dynamics of biological and synthetic macromolecules at the single-molecule level.




Qian, H., & Elson, E. L. (1999). Quantitative study of polymer conformation and dynamics by single- particle tracking. Biophysical Journal, 76(3), 1598–1605. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(99)77319-4

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