Packing nanomechanics of viral genomes

  • A. Šiber
  • M. Dragar
  • V. A. Parsegian
  • R. PodgornikEmail author
Regular Article


We investigate the osmotic equilibrium between a bulk polyethylene glycol (PEG) solution and DNA tightly packed in a spherical capsid. We base our analysis on the equations of thermodynamic equilibrium in terms of osmotic pressure. The equality between external osmotic pressure of PEG and osmotic pressure of tightly packed DNA gives us the DNA encapsidation curves. In this way we directly connect the wealth of existing osmotic pressure data for DNA in the bulk with the DNA encapsidation curves within small viral capsids. Specific calculations are made for a monovalent salt, Na+ -DNA and a divalent salt, Mn2+ -DNA that have quite different DNA encapsidation behaviors. The main conclusion of our work is that bending energy of DNA is of minor importance regarding the encapsidated DNA length, but has a non-negligible influence on the density distribution of DNA within the capsid.


87.15.-v Biomolecules: structure and physical properties 82.39.Wj Ion exchange, dialysis, osmosis, electro-osmosis, membrane processes 61.25.H- Macromolecular and polymer solutions; polymer melts 


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Copyright information

© EDP Sciences, Società Italiana di Fisica and Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Šiber
    • 1
    • 3
  • M. Dragar
    • 2
  • V. A. Parsegian
    • 4
  • R. Podgornik
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Institute of PhysicsZagrebCroatia
  2. 2.Department of Physics, Faculty of Mathematics and PhysicsUniversity of LjubljanaLjubljanaSlovenia
  3. 3.Department of Theoretical PhysicsJ. Stefan InstituteLjubljanaSlovenia
  4. 4.Laboratory of Physical and Structural BiologyNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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