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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2018;1092:11-39. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-95294-9_2.

DNA Mechanics and Topology.

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Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA.
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA.


We review the current understanding of the mechanics of DNA and DNA-protein complexes, from scales of base pairs up to whole chromosomes. Mechanics of the double helix as revealed by single-molecule experiments will be described, with an emphasis on the role of polymer statistical mechanics. We will then discuss how topological constraints- entanglement and supercoiling-impact physical and mechanical responses. Models for protein-DNA interactions, including effects on polymer properties of DNA of DNA-bending proteins will be described, relevant to behavior of protein-DNA complexes in vivo. We also discuss control of DNA entanglement topology by DNA-lengthwise-compaction machinery acting in concert with topoisomerases. Finally, the chapter will conclude with a discussion of relevance of several aspects of physical properties of DNA and chromatin to oncology.


Braid; DNA mechanics; DNA topology; DNA–protein interactions; Lengthwise compaction.; Linking number; Plectoneme; Supercoiling; Worm-like chain

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