Department of Physics Papers

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Journal Article

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Physical Review E



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Single molecule experiments on single- and double stranded DNA have sparked a renewed interest in the force-extension of polymers. The extensible Freely Jointed Chain (FJC) model is frequently invoked to explain the observed behavior of singlestranded DNA. We demonstrate that this model does not satisfactorily describe recent high-force stretching data. We instead propose a model (the Discrete Persistent Chain, or “DPC”) that borrows features from both the FJC and the Wormlike Chain, and show that it resembles the data more closely. We find that most of the high-force behavior previously attributed to stretch elasticity is really a feature of the corrected entropic elasticity; the true stretch compliance of single-stranded DNA is several times smaller than that found by previous authors. Next we elaborate our model to allow coexistence of two conformational states of DNA, each with its own stretch and bend elastic constants. Our model is computationally simple, and gives an excellent fit through the entire overstretching transition of nicked, double-stranded DNA. The fit gives the first values for the elastic constants of the stretched state. In particular we find the effective bend stiffness for DNA in this state to be about 10 nm · kBT, a value quite different from either B-form or single-stranded DNA.

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Date Posted: 07 April 2017

This document has been peer reviewed.