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De Witt Sumners
Department of Mathematics
Florida State University

Monte Carlo vs Experiment: DNA Knots Reveal Chiral Packing of DNA in Viral Phage Capsids

Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria.  They pack their double-stranded DNA genomes to near-crystalline density in viral capsids and achieve one of the highest levels of DNA condensation found in nature. Despite numerous studies some essential properties of the packaging geometry of the DNA inside the phage capsid are still unknown. Although viral DNA is linear double-stranded with sticky ends, the linear viral DNA quickly becomes cyclic when removed from the capsid, and for some viral DNA the observed knot probability is an astounding 95%.  This talk will discuss comparison of the experimentally observed viral knot spectrum with Monte Carlo simulations of knots in confined volumes, concluding that the packing geometry of the DNA inside the capsid is non-random and writhe-directed.

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Last Updated: Friday, November 4, 2005
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