V. Belyy, A. Yildiz
Cytoskeletal motors utilize the energy stored in ATP to generate linear motion along rigid filaments. Because their enzymatic cycles are tightly coupled to the production of force and forward movement, the optical-trapping technique is uniquely suited for studying their mechanochemical cycle. Here, we discuss the practical aspects of optical trapping in connection with single-motor assays and describe three distinct experimental modes (fixed-trap, force feedback, and square wave) that are typically used to investigate the enzymatic and biophysical properties of cytoskeletal motors. The principal outstanding questions in the field involve motor regulation by cargo adaptor proteins and cargo transport by teams of motors, ensuring that the optical trap's ability to apply precise forces and measure nanometer-scale displacements will remain crucial to the study of intracellular motility in the foreseeable future.