Stretching Response of Knotted and Unknotted Polymer Chains

M Caraglio and C Micheletti and E Orlandini, PHYSICAL REVIEW LETTERS, 115, 188301 (2015).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.115.188301

Recent theoretical and experimental advances have clarified the major effects of knotting on the properties of stretched chains. Yet, how knotted chains respond to weak mechanical stretching and how this behavior differs from the unknotted case are still open questions and we address them here by profiling the complete stretching response of chains of hundreds of monomers and different topology. We find that the ratio of the knotted and unknotted chain extensions varies nonmonotonically with the applied force. This surprising feature is shown to be a signature of the crossover between the well-known high- force stretching regime and the previously uncharacterized low-force one. The observed differences of knotted and unknotted chain response increases with knot complexity and are sufficiently marked that they could be harnessed in single-molecule contexts to infer the presence and complexity of physical knots in micron-long biomolecules.

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