We describe a method for observing real time replication of individual DNA molecules mediated by proteins of the bacteriophage replication system. Linearized lambda DNA is modified to have a biotin on the end of one strand, and a digoxigenin moiety on the other end of the same strand. The biotinylated end is attached to a functionalized glass coverslip and the digoxigeninated end to a small bead. The assembly of these DNA-bead tethers on the surface of a flow cell allows a laminar flow to be applied to exert a drag force on the bead. As a result, the DNA is stretched close to and parallel to the surface of the coverslip at a force that is determined by the flow rate (Figure 1). The length of the DNA is measured by monitoring the position of the bead. Length differences between single- and double-stranded DNA are utilized to obtain real-time information on the activity of the replication proteins at the fork. Measuring the position of the bead allows precise determination of the rates and processivities of DNA unwinding and polymerization (Figure 2).
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