Dynamics of supercoiled DNA with complex knots: large-scale rearrangements and persistent multi-strand interlocking

L Coronel and A Suma and C Micheletti, NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 46, 7533-7541 (2018).

DOI: 10.1093/nar/gky523

Knots and supercoiling are both introduced in bacterial plasmids by catalytic processes involving DNA strand passages. While the effects on plasmid organization has been extensively studied for knotting and supercoiling taken separately, much less is known about their concurrent action. Here, we use molecular dynamics simulations and oxDNA, an accurate mesoscopic DNA model, to study the kinetic and metric changes introduced by complex (five-crossing) knots and supercoiling in 2 kbp- long DNA rings. We find several unexpected results. First, the conformational ensemble is dominated by two distinct states, differing in branchedness and knot size. Secondly, fluctuations between these states are as fast as the metric relaxation of unknotted rings. In spite of this, certain boundaries of knotted and plectonemically-wound regions can persist over much longer timescales. These pinned regions involve multiple strands that are interlocked by the cooperative action of topological and supercoiling constraints. Their long-lived character may be relevant for the simplifying action of topoisomerases.

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