Topology and mechanics of DNA
David Swigon (Mathematics, University of Pittsburgh)
(April 13, 2006 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM)
Ever since the discovery of the double-helical DNA structure by Watson and Crick it became apparent that the survival and reproduction of a cell requires the solution of a number of problems ranging from efficient packaging of DNA to the untangling of DNA strands during replication and transcription. Theoretical understanding of these problems required the use of concepts from topology and differential geometry, and prompted the development of new approaches to solving open problems in the mechanics of slender elastic bodies. Presented will be an introduction to the main concepts in the theory of DNA topology and elasticity and an overview of the results obtained in recent years on (i) equilibrium configurations of DNA segments with the effects of impenetrability and self-contact forces taken into account and (ii) the effects of sequence-dependence of elastic properties on configurations of DNA minicircles and the probability of DNA closure.