Research Articles

Helical repeat and linking number of surface-wrapped DNA

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Science  15 Jul 1988:
Vol. 241, Issue 4863, pp. 323-327
DOI: 10.1126/science.3388041


The geometric properties of duplex DNA are systematically altered when the DNA is wrapped on a protein surface. The linking number of surface-wrapped closed circular DNA is the sum of two integers: the winding number, phi, a function of the helical repeat; and the surface linking number, SLk, a newly defined geometric constant that accounts for the effects of surface geometry on the twist and writhe of DNA. Changes in the helical repeat, h, and in the winding number can be deduced solely from surface geometry and superhelix density, sigma. This treatment relates the theoretically important properties twist and writhe to the more experimentally accessible quantities phi, h, SLk, and sigma. The analysis is applied to three biologically important cases: interwinding of DNA in a plectonemic superhelix, catenated DNA, and minichromosomes.