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Transcription-driven twin supercoiling of a DNA loop: A Brownian dynamics study


The torque generated by RNA polymerase as it tracks along double-stranded DNA can potentially induce long-range structural deformations integral to mechanisms of biological significance in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. In this paper, we introduce a dynamic computer model for investigating this phenomenon. Duplex DNA is represented as a chain of hydrodynamic beads interacting through potentials of linearly elastic stretching, bending, and twisting, as well as excluded volume. The chain, linear when relaxed, is looped to form two open but topologically constrained subdomains. This permits the dynamic introduction of torsional stress via a centrally applied torque. We simulate by Brownian dynamics the 100 mus response of a 477-base pair B-DNA template to the localized torque generated by the prokaryotic transcription ensemble. Following a sharp rise at early times, the distributed twist assumes a nearly constant value in both subdomains, and a succession of supercoiling deformations occurs as superhelical stress is increasingly partitioned to writhe. The magnitude of writhe surpasses that of twist before also leveling off when the structure reaches mechanical equilibrium with the torsional load. Superhelicity is simultaneously right handed in one subdomain and left handed in the other, as predicted by the "transcription-induced twin-supercoiled-domain" model [L. F. Liu and J. C. Wang, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 84, 7024 (1987)]. The properties of the chain at the onset of writhing agree well with predictions from theory, and the generated stress is ample for driving secondary structural transitions in physiological DNA. (C) 2004 American Institute of Physics.

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