The size of the nucleosome

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    The structural origin of the size of the 11 nm nucleosomal disc is addressed. On the nanometer length-scale the organization of DNA as chromatin in the chromosomes involves a coiling of DNA around the histone core of the nucleosome. We suggest that the size of the nucleosome core particle is dictated by the fulfillment of two criteria: One is optimizing the volume fraction of the DNA double helix; this requirement for close-packing has its root in optimizing atomic and molecular interactions. The other criterion being that of having a zero strain-twist coupling; being a zero-twist structure is a necessity when allowing for transient tensile stresses during the reorganization of DNA, e.g., during the reposition, or sliding, of a nucleosome along the DNA double helix. The mathematical model we apply is based on a tubular description of double helices assuming hard walls. When the base-pairs of the linker-DNA is included the estimate of the size of an ideal nucleosome is in close agreement with the experimental numbers. Interestingly, the size of the nucleosome is shown to be a consequence of intrinsic properties of the DNA double helix.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)arXiv:1102.0761
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • Soft Condensed Matter
    • Biological Physics
    • Biomolecules


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