Molecular beacons (MBs) are specifically designed DNA hairpin structures that are widely used as fluorescent probes. Applications of MBs range from genetic screening, biosensor development, biochip construction, and the detection of single-nucleotide polymorphisms to mRNA monitoring in living cells. The inherent signal-transduction mechanism of MBs enables the analysis of target oligonucleotides without the separation of unbound probes. The MB stem–loop structure holds the fluorescence-donor and fluorescence-acceptor moieties in close proximity to one another, which results in resonant energy transfer. A spontaneous conformation change occurs upon hybridization to separate the two moieties and restore the fluorescence of the donor. Recent research has focused on the improvement of probe composition, intracellular gene quantitation, protein–DNA interaction studies, and protein recognition.