Journal article

Designing nucleosomal force sensors

About three quarters of our DNA is wrapped into nucleosomes: DNA spools with a protein core. It is well known that the affinity of a given DNA stretch to be incorporated into a nucleosome depends on the geometry and elasticity of the basepair sequence involved, causing the positioning of nucleosomes. Here we show that DNA elasticity can have a much deeper effect on nucleosomes than just their positioning: it affects their "identities". Employing a recently developed computational algorithm, the mutation Monte Carlo method, we design nucleosomes with surprising physical characteristics. Unlike any other nucleosomes studied so far, these nucleosomes are short-lived when put under mechanical tension whereas other physical properties are largely unaffected. This suggests that the nucleosome, the most abundant DNA-protein complex in our cells, might more properly be considered a class of complexes with a wide array of physical properties, and raises the possibility that evolution has shaped various nucleosome species according to their genomic context.


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