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Torsional directed walks, entropic elasticity, and DNA twist stiffness

By J. David Moroz and Philip Nelson

Abstract

DNA and other biopolymers differ from classical polymers because of their torsional stiffness. This property changes the statistical character of their conformations under tension from a classical random walk to a problem we call the “torsional directed walk.” Motivated by a recent experiment on single lambda-DNA molecules [Strick, T. R., Allemand, J.-F., Bensimon, D., Bensimon, A. & Croquette, V. (1996) Science 271, 1835–1837], we formulate the torsional directed walk problem and solve it analytically in the appropriate force regime. Our technique affords a direct physical determination of the microscopic twist stiffness C and twist-stretch coupling D relevant for DNA functionality. The theory quantitatively fits existing experimental data for relative extension as a function of overtwist over a wide range of applied force; fitting to the experimental data yields the numerical values C = 120 nm and D = 50 nm. Future experiments will refine these values. We also predict that the phenomenon of reduction of effective twist stiffness by bend fluctuations should be testable in future single-molecule experiments, and we give its analytic form

Topics: Biological Sciences
Publisher: The National Academy of Sciences of the USA
Year: 1997
DOI identifier: 10.1073/pnas.94.26.14418
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:25005
Provided by: PubMed Central
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