Underwound DNA under tension: structure, elasticity, and sequence-dependent behaviors

Phys Rev Lett. 2011 Sep 2;107(10):108102. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.108102. Epub 2011 Sep 1.


DNA melting under torsion plays an important role in a wide variety of cellular processes. In the present Letter, we have investigated DNA melting at the single-molecule level using an angular optical trap. By directly measuring force, extension, torque, and angle of DNA, we determined the structural and elastic parameters of torsionally melted DNA. Our data reveal that under moderate forces, the melted DNA assumes a left-handed structure as opposed to an open bubble conformation and is highly torsionally compliant. We have also discovered that at low forces melted DNA properties are highly dependent on DNA sequence. These results provide a more comprehensive picture of the global DNA force-torque phase diagram.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / genetics
  • Elasticity*
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Nucleic Acid Denaturation
  • Optical Tweezers
  • Torque


  • DNA