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The application of single-molecule optical tweezers to study disease-related structural dynamics in RNA.

RNA, a dynamic and flexible molecule with intricate three-dimensional structures, has myriad functions in disease development. Traditional methods, such as X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance, face limitations in capturing real-time, single-molecule dynamics crucial for understanding RNA function. This review explores the transformative potential of single-molecule force spectroscopy using optical tweezers, showcasing its capability to directly probe time-dependent structural rearrangements of individual RNA molecules. Optical tweezers offer versatility in exploring diverse conditions, with the potential to provide insights into how environmental changes, ligands and RNA-binding proteins impact RNA behaviour. By enabling real-time observations of large-scale structural dynamics, optical tweezers emerge as an invaluable tool for advancing our comprehension of RNA structure and function. Here, we showcase their application in elucidating the dynamics of RNA elements in virology, such as the pseudoknot governing ribosomal frameshifting in SARS-CoV-2.

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