ABSTRACT

For decades, we have relied on population and time-averaged snapshots of dynamic molecular scale events to understand how genes are regulated during development and beyond. The advent of techniques to observe single-molecule kinetics in increasingly endogenous contexts, progressing from in vitro studies to living embryos, has revealed how much we have missed. Here, we provide an accessible overview of the rapidly expanding family of technologies for single-molecule tracking (SMT), with the goal of enabling the reader to critically analyse single-molecule studies, as well as to inspire the application of SMT to their own work. We start by overviewing the basics of and motivation for SMT experiments, and the trade-offs involved when optimizing parameters. We then cover key technologies, including fluorescent labelling, excitation and detection optics, localization and tracking algorithms, and data analysis. Finally, we provide a summary of selected recent applications of SMT to study the dynamics of gene regulation.

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