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Biochemistry: one molecule at a time
journal contributionposted on 2021-04-21, 10:04 authored by Dominika T Gruszka
Biological processes are orchestrated by complex networks of molecules. Conventional approaches for studying the action of biomolecules operate on a population level, averaging out any inhomogeneities within the ensemble. Investigating one biological macromolecule at a time allows researchers to directly probe individual behaviours, and thus characterise the intrinsic molecular heterogeneity of the system. Single-molecule methods have unravelled unexpected modes of action for many seemingly well-characterised biomolecules and often proved instrumental in understanding the intricate mechanistic basis of biological processes. This collection of reviews aims to showcase how single-molecule techniques can be used to address important biological questions and to inspire biochemists to ‘zoom in’ to the population and probe individual molecular behaviours, beyond the ensemble average. Furthermore, this issue of Essays in Biochemistry is the very first written and edited entirely by early career researchers, and so it also highlights the strength, diversity and excellence of the younger generation single-molecule scientists who drive this exciting field of research forward.