Scientists can use optical tweezers to trap beads, as depicted at the right, and catch a filament in between. This filament can then be manipulated by moving the beads, while the force and extension are measured. Combining optical tweezers with simultaneous fluorescence measurements allows correlating the mechanical properties of the microtubule with local information. With optical tweezers – fluorescence microscopy you can:
- Directly measure the mechanical properties of filaments and manipulate them to find their thresholds and energy dissipation mechanisms
- Correlate global mechanical properties of the filament with local structural information
- Observe and correlate the effect of binding and motion of single molecules on filament mechanics and dynamics
- Visualize and measure filament-filament, filament-protein, and filament-protein-filament interactions
- Perform experiments under biologically relevant conditions and highly crowded environments and link the in vitro experiment with the in vivo situation
- Study the effect of small molecules and biologics in filament structure and dynamics.