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High-Performance Image-Based Measurements of Biological Forces and Interactions in a Dual Optical Trap

Cornell Affiliated Author(s)


J.L. Killian
J.T. Inman
M.D. Wang


Optical traps enable the nanoscale manipulation of individual biomolecules while measuring molecular forces and lengths. This ability relies on the sensitive detection of optically trapped particles, typically accomplished using laser-based interferometric methods. Recently, image-based particle tracking techniques have garnered increased interest as a potential alternative to laser-based detection; however, successful integration of image-based methods into optical trapping instruments for biophysical applications and force measurements has remained elusive. Here, we develop a camera-based detection platform that enables accurate and precise measurements of biological forces and interactions in a dual optical trap. In demonstration, we stretch and unzip DNA molecules while measuring the relative distances of trapped particles from their trapping centers with sub-nanometer accuracy and precision. We then use the DNA unzipping technique to localize bound proteins with sub-base-pair precision, revealing how thermal DNA "breathing" fluctuations allow an unzipping fork to detect and respond to the presence of a protein bound downstream. This work advances the capabilities of image tracking in optical traps, providing a state-of-the-art detection method that is accessible, highly flexible, and broadly compatible with diverse experimental substrates and other nanometric techniques. © Copyright 2018 American Chemical Society.

Date Published


ACS Nano





Number of Pages





Research Area

Group (Lab)

Michelle Wang Group

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