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Angular Optical Trapping to Directly Measure DNA Torsional Mechanics

Cornell Affiliated Author(s)


X. Gao
J.T. Inman
M.D. Wang


Angular optical trapping (AOT) is a powerful technique that permits direct angular manipulation of a trapped particle with simultaneous measurement of torque and rotation, while also retaining the capabilities of position and force detection. This technique provides unique approaches to investigate the torsional properties of nucleic acids and DNA-protein complexes, as well as impacts of torsional stress on fundamental biological processes, such as transcription and replication. Here we describe the principle, construction, and calibration of the AOT in detail and provide a guide to the performance of single-molecule torque measurements on DNA molecules. We include the constant-force method and, notably, a new constant-extension method that enables measurement of the twist persistence length of both extended DNA, under an extremely low force, and plectonemic DNA. This chapter can assist in the implementation and application of this technique for general researchers in the single-molecule field. © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Date Published


Methods in Molecular Biology



Number of Pages





Research Area

Group (Lab)

Michelle Wang Group

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