Dec 6, 2006 (PhysOrg.com) – Virginia Tech researchers used novel methodology and the university’s System X supercomputer to carry out what is probably the first simulation that explores full range of motions of a DNA strand of 147 base pairs, the length that is required to form the fundamental unit of DNA packing in the living cells — the nucleosome. Contrary to a long-held belief that DNA is hard to bend, the simulation shows in crisp atomic detail that DNA is considerably more flexible than commonly thought…

As we know from watching forensic detective shows on TV, the DNA in all of an individual’s cells is identical. The DNA in fingernail cells is exactly the same as in muscle. Yet the cells are different. “This is because, roughly speaking, the DNA in different cell types is packed differently and the complexes it forms with the surrounding proteins are in different positions, so only the relevant part of the code can be read at a time,” said Onufriev. “Although nobody knows exactly how it happens, you can imagine reading only what you can see on a part of a crumpled newspaper.”

The traditional view is that DNA is relatively rigid and that considerable energy is required when it needs to be bent to form protein-DNA complexes. However, recent experiments (Nature, Aug. 17, 2006) have begun to challenge that view. “The famous double-helix may be much more flexible than previously thought,” said Onufriev…

More… (source)

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