A ring-polymer model shows how macromolecular crowding controls chromosome-arm organization in Escherichia coli

C Jeon and Y Jung and BY Ha, SCIENTIFIC REPORTS, 7, 11896 (2017).

DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-10421-y

Macromolecular crowding influences various cellular processes such as macromolecular association and transcription, and is a key determinant of chromosome organization in bacteria. The entropy of crowders favors compaction of long chain molecules such as chromosomes. To what extent is the circular bacterial chromosome, often viewed as consisting of "two arms", organized entropically by crowding? Using computer simulations, we examine how a ring polymer is organized in a crowded and cylindrically-confined space, as a coarse-grained bacterial chromosome. Our results suggest that in a wide parameter range of biological relevance crowding is essential for separating the two arms in the way observed with Escherichia coli chromosomes at fast-growth rates, in addition to maintaining the chromosome in an organized collapsed state. Under different conditions, however, the ring polymer is centrally condensed or adsorbed onto the cylindrical wall with the two arms laterally collapsed onto each other. We discuss the relevance of our results to chromosome-membrane interactions.

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