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Nucleic Acid and Protein Single Molecule Detection and Characterization

Structural Determination Techniques (DNA, RNA and Protein)

  1. Karl Otto Greulich

Published Online: 15 SEP 2006

DOI: 10.1002/3527600906.mcb.200400042

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

How to Cite

Greulich, K. O. 2006. Nucleic Acid and Protein Single Molecule Detection and Characterization. Reviews in Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. .

Author Information

  1. Institute of Molecular Biotechnology, Jena, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2006


Single molecule research is progressing from pure single molecule detection (SMD), for example, by scanning microscopy or by high-resolution spectroscopy, toward true single molecule chemistry, biochemistry, or molecular biology. The last few years have seen a shift from small chromophores to (biological) macromolecules. Individual protein molecules vary in structural detail and thus may have different functional properties, even if they are, in bulk, assumed to represent the same protein. The molecule with the most pronounced individuality, however, is DNA. Theoretically, one would need oligonucleotides only 17 bp in length to assign an own sequence to each human individual. The human genome has a length of 3 billion base pairs. Such an essentially infinite variability can only be studied on a single molecule basis.

Therefore, the present review article tries to give an overview on techniques for studying biophysics and biochemistry of proteins (in Sect. 3) and DNA (in Sect. 4) without aiming to be comprehensive. In most cases, recent examples of work from representative author groups are given. Patch clamp studies, for which Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann won the 1991 Nobel prize, will not be treated in the present overview since this field would justify a separate review.


  • DNA ;
  • proteins;
  • Single Molecule Biochemistry;
  • Single Molecule Biophysics;
  • Techniques for Single Molecule Studies