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Phys Rev E. 2019 Mar;99(3-1):032414. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevE.99.032414.

Twist-bend coupling and the statistical mechanics of the twistable wormlike-chain model of DNA: Perturbation theory and beyond.

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KU Leuven, Institute for Theoretical Physics, Celestijnenlaan 200D, 3001 Leuven, Belgium.
Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Boeretang 200, B-2400 Mol, Belgium.
Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Department of Molecular Biosciences, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


The simplest model of DNA mechanics describes the double helix as a continuous rod with twist and bend elasticity. Recent work has discussed the relevance of a little-studied coupling G between twisting and bending, known to arise from the groove asymmetry of the DNA double helix. Here the effect of G on the statistical mechanics of long DNA molecules subject to applied forces and torques is investigated. We present a perturbative calculation of the effective torsional stiffness C_{eff} for small twist-bend coupling. We find that the "bare" G is "screened" by thermal fluctuations, in the sense that the low-force, long-molecule effective free energy is that of a model with G=0 but with long-wavelength bending and twisting rigidities that are shifted by G-dependent amounts. Using results for torsional and bending rigidities for freely fluctuating DNA, we show how our perturbative results can be extended to a nonperturbative regime. These results are in excellent agreement with numerical calculations for Monte Carlo "triad" and molecular dynamics "oxDNA" models, characterized by different degrees of coarse graining, validating the perturbative and nonperturbative analyses. While our theory is in generally good quantitative agreement with experiment, the predicted torsional stiffness does systematically deviate from experimental data, suggesting that there are as-yet-uncharacterized aspects of DNA twisting-stretching mechanics relevant to low-force, long-molecule mechanical response, which are not captured by widely used coarse-grained models.

[Available on 2020-03-01]
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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