Understanding how RNA folds and what causes it to unfold has become more important as knowledge of the diverse functions of RNA has increased. Here we review the contributions of single-molecule experiments to providing answers to questions such as: How much energy is required to unfold a secondary or tertiary structure? How fast is the process? How do helicases unwind double helices? Are the unwinding activities of RNA-dependent RNA polymerases and of ribosomes different from other helicases? We discuss the use of optical tweezers to monitor the unfolding activities of helicases, polymerases, and ribosomes, and to apply force to unfold RNAs directly. We also review the applications of fluorescence and fluorescence resonance energy transfer to measure RNA dynamics.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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