Looking at long molecules in solution: what happens when they are subjected to Couette flow?†
Knowing the structure of a molecule is one of the keys to deducing its function in a biological system. However, many biomacromolecules are not amenable to structural characterisation by the powerful techniques often used namely NMR and X-ray diffraction because they are too large, or too flexible or simply refuse to crystallize. Long molecules such as DNA and fibrous proteins are two such classes of molecule. In this article the extent to which flow linear dichroism (LD) can be used to characterise the structure and function of such molecules is reviewed. Consideration is given to the issues of fluid dynamics and light scattering by such large molecules. A range of applications of LD are reviewed including (i) fibrous proteins with particular attention being given to actin; (ii) a far from comprehensive discussion of the use of LD for DNA and DNA–ligand systems; (iii) LD for the kinetics of restriction digestion of circular supercoiled DNA; and (iv) carbon nanotubes to illustrate that LD can be used on any long molecules with accessible absorption transitions.