Exploring molecular biology in sequence space

The road to next-generation single-molecule biophysics

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Abstract

Next-generation sequencing techniques have led to a new quantitative dimension in the biological sciences. In particular, integrating sequencing techniques with biophysical tools allows sequence-dependent mechanistic studies. Using the millions of DNA clusters that are generated during sequencing to perform high-throughput binding affinity and kinetics measurements enabled the construction of energy landscapes in sequence space, uncovering relationships between sequence, structure, and function. Here, we review the approaches to perform ensemble fluorescence experiments on next-generation sequencing chips for variations of DNA, RNA, and protein sequences. As the next step, we anticipate that these fluorescence experiments will be pushed to the single-molecule level, which can directly uncover kinetics and molecular heterogeneity in an unprecedented high-throughput fashion. Molecular biophysics in sequence space, both at the ensemble and single-molecule level, leads to new mechanistic insights. The wide spectrum of applications in biology and medicine ranges from the fundamental understanding of evolutionary pathways to the development of new therapeutics.