As if we were studying the motor of a car, to understand the mechanism of operation of a biological molecular motor we should answer questions like: What moves? Why? What limits performance? What is the amount of force generated? What happen if I pull this?
To answer these questions we are using a single molecule manipulation technique called Optical Tweezers. This novel technique provides previously unobtainable data on fundamental biochemical processes that are essential for all forms of life:
- The possibility to isolate a single protein and follow its activity in real time allow us to avoid ensemble averaging and capture transient intermediates and heterogeneous behaviour characteristic of the protein operation at the nanos
- On the other hand, we can measure the mechanical forces developed during the protein motor operation and apply controlled forces of a few picoNewtons to it. Access to the mechanical coordinate of the reaction is revealing the mechanisms used by these nanomachines to couple energy to motion.