Unwrapping of DNA-protein complexes under external stretching

Takahiro Sakaue, Hartmut Löwen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


A DNA-protein complex modeled by a semiflexible chain and an attractive spherical core is studied in the situation when an external stretching force is acting on one end monomer of the chain while the other end monomer is kept fixed in space. Without a stretching force, the chain is wrapped around the core. By applying an external stretching force, unwrapping of the complex is induced. We study the statics and dynamics of the unwrapping process by computer simulations and simple phenomenological theory. We find two different scenarios depending on the chain stiffness: For a flexible chain, the extension of the complex scales linearly with the external force applied. The sphere-chain complex is disordered; i.e., there is no clear winding of the chain around the sphere. For a stiff chain, on the other hand, the complex structure is ordered, which is reminiscent of nucleosome. There is a clear winding number, and the unwrapping process under external stretching is discontinuous with jumps of the distance-force curve. This is associated with discrete unwinding processes of the complex. Our predictions are of relevance for experiments, which measure force-extension curves of DNA-protein complexes, such as nucleosome, using optical tweezers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8
Number of pages1
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical Physics, Plasmas, Fluids, and Related Interdisciplinary Topics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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