An effective mesoscopic model of double-stranded DNA
Watson and Crick’s epochal presentation of the double helix structure in 1953 has paved the way to intense exploration of DNA’s vital functions in cells. Also, recent advances of single molecule techniques have made it possible to probe structures and mechanics of constrained DNA at length scales ranging from nanometers to microns. There have been a number of atomistic scale quantum chemical calculations or molecular level simulations, but they are too computationally demanding or analytically unfeasible to describe the DNA conformation and mechanics at mesoscopic levels. At micron scales, on the other hand, the wormlike chain model has been very instrumental in describing analytically the DNA mechanics but lacks certain molecular details that are essential in describing the hybridization, nano-scale confinement, and local denaturation. To fill this fundamental gap, we present a workable and predictive mesoscopic model of double-stranded DNA where the nucleotides beads constitute the basic degrees of freedom. With the inter-strand stacking given by an interaction between diagonally opposed monomers, the model explains with analytical simplicity the helix formation and produces a generalized wormlike chain model with the concomitant large bending modulus given in terms of the helical structure and stiffness. It also explains how the helical conformation undergoes overstretch transition to the ladder-like conformation at a force plateau, in agreement with the experiment.