DNA and RNA polymerases active on bacterial and human genomes in the crowded environment of a cell are modeled as beads spaced along a string. Aggregation of the large polymerizing complexes increases the entropy of the system through an increase in entropy of the many small crowding molecules; this occurs despite the entropic costs of looping the intervening DNA. Results of a quantitative cost/benefit analysis are consistent with observations that active polymerases cluster into replication and transcription “factories” in both pro- and eukaryotes. We conclude that the second law of thermodynamics acts through nonspecific entropic forces between engaged polymerases to drive the self-organization of genomes into loops containing several thousands (and sometimes millions) of basepairs
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