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Single-molecule manipulation techniques have provided unprecedented insights into the structure, function, interactions, and mechanical properties of biological macromolecules. Recently, the single-molecule toolbox has been expanded by techniques that enable measurements of rotation and torque, such as the optical torque wrench (OTW) and several different implementations of magnetic (torque) tweezers. Although systematic analyses of the position and force precision of single-molecule techniques have attracted considerable attention, their angle and torque precision have been treated in much less detail. Here, we propose Allan deviation as a tool to systematically quantitate angle and torque precision in single-molecule measurements. We apply the Allan variance method to experimental data from our implementations of (electro)magnetic torque tweezers and an OTW and find that both approaches can achieve a torque precision better than 1 pN · nm. The OTW, capable of measuring torque on (sub)millisecond timescales, provides the best torque precision for measurement times ≲10 s, after which drift becomes a limiting factor. For longer measurement times, magnetic torque tweezers with their superior stability provide the best torque precision. Use of the Allan deviation enables critical assessments of the torque precision as a function of measurement time across different measurement modalities and provides a tool to optimize measurement protocols for a given instrument and application.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Biophysical journal
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