Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Optical methods for measuring DNA folding

Adam D. Smith, Obinna A. Ukogu, Luka M. Devenica, Elizabeth D. White, Ashley R. Carter

One of the most important biological processes is the dynamic folding and unfolding of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The folding process is crucial for DNA to fit within the boundaries of the cell, while the unfolding process is essential for DNA replication and transcription. To accommodate both processes, the cell employs a highly active folding mechanism that has been the subject of intense study over the last few decades. Still, many open questions remain. What are the pathways for folding or unfolding? How does the folding equilibrium shift? And, what is the energy landscape for a particular process? Here, we review these emerging questions and the in vitro, optical methods that have provided answers, introducing the topic for those physicists seeking to step into biology. Specifically, we discuss two iconic experiments for DNA folding, the tethered particle motion (TPM) experiment and the optical tweezers experiment.
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