Molecular dynamics simulations of small DNA plasmids: effects of sequence and supercoiling on intramolecular motions.

  • Tan R
  • Sprous D
  • Harvey S
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Small (600 base pair) DNA plasmids were modeled with a simplified representation (3DNA) and the intramolecular motions were studied using molecular mechanics and molecular dynamics techniques. The model is detailed enough to incorporate sequence effects. At the same time, it is simple enough to allow long molecular dynamics simulations. The simulations revealed that large-scale slithering occurs in a homogeneous sequence. In a heterogeneous sequence, containing numerous small intrinsic curves, the centers of the curves are preferentially positioned at the tips of loops. With more curves than loop tips (two in unbranched supercoiled DNA), the heterogeneous sequence plasmid slithers short distances to reposition other curves into the loop tips. However, the DNA is immobilized most of the time, with the loop tips positioned over a few favored curve centers. Branching or looping also appears in the heterogeneous sequence as a new method of repositioning the loop tips. Instead of a smooth progression of increasing writhing with increasing linking difference, theoretical studies have predicted that there is a threshold between unwrithed and writhed DNA at a linking difference between one and two. This has previously been observed in simulations of static structures and is demonstrated here for dynamic homogeneous closed DNA. Such an abrupt transition is not found in the heterogeneous sequence in both the static and dynamic cases.

Author-supplied keywords

  • DNA, Superhelical
  • DNA, Superhelical: chemistry
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Plasmids
  • Thermodynamics

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  • R K Tan

  • D Sprous

  • S C Harvey

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