A multiscale analysis of DNA phase separation: from atomistic to mesoscale level

TD Sun and A Mirzoev and V Minhas and N Korolev and AP Lyubartsev and L Nordenskiold, NUCLEIC ACIDS RESEARCH, 47, 5550-5562 (2019).

DOI: 10.1093/nar/gkz377

DNA condensation and phase separation is of utmost importance for DNA packing in vivo with important applications in medicine, biotechnology and polymer physics. The presence of hexagonally ordered DNA is observed in virus capsids, sperm heads and in dinoflagellates. Rigorous modelling of this process in all-atom MD simulations is presently difficult to achieve due to size and time scale limitations. We used a hierarchical approach for systematic multiscale coarse-grained (CG) simulations of DNA phase separation induced by the three-valent cobalt(III)-hexammine (CoHex(3+)). Solvent-mediated effective potentials for a CG model of DNA were extracted from all-atom MD simulations. Simulations of several hundred 100-bp-long CG DNA oligonucleotides in the presence of explicit CoHex(3+) ions demonstrated aggregation to a liquid crystalline hexagonally ordered phase. Following further coarse-graining and extraction of effective potentials, we conducted modelling at mesoscale level. In agreement with electron microscopy observations, simulations of an 10.2-kblong DNA molecule showed phase separation to either a toroid or a fibre with distinct hexagonal DNA packing. The mechanism of toroid formation is analysed in detail. The approach used here is based only on the underlying all-atom force field and uses no adjustable parameters and may be generalised to modelling chromatin up to chromosome size.

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