DNA-DNA interactions in tight supercoils are described by a small effective charge density

Christopher Maffeo, Robert Schöpflin, Hergen Brutzer, René Stehr, Aleksei Aksimentiev, Gero Wedemann, Ralf Seidel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


DNA-DNA interactions are important for genome compaction and transcription regulation. In studies of such complex processes, DNA is often modeled as a homogeneously charged cylinder and its electrostatic interactions are calculated within the framework of the Poisson-Boltzmann equation. Commonly, a charge adaptation factor is used to address limitations of this theoretical approach. Despite considerable theoretical and experimental efforts, a rigorous quantitative assessment of this parameter is lacking. Here, we comprehensively characterized DNA-DNA interactions in the presence of monovalent ions by analyzing the supercoiling behavior of single DNA molecules held under constant tension. Both a theoretical model and coarse-grained simulations of this process revealed a surprisingly small effective DNA charge of 40% of the nominal charge density, which was additionally supported by all-atom molecular dynamics simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number158101
JournalPhysical review letters
Issue number15
StatePublished - Oct 4 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


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