DNA Condensate Morphology - Examples from the Test Tube and Nature

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Vilfan, Igor D.
Hud, Nicholas V.
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DNA condensates have attracted the attention of biophysicists, biochemists and polymer physicists for more than thirty years. In the biological community, the quest to understand DNA toroid formation has been motivated by its relevance to gene packing in certain viruses and by the potential use of DNA toroids in artificial gene delivery (e.g. gene therapy). In the physical sciences, DNA toroids are appreciated as a superb model system for studying particle formation by the collapse of a semiflexible, polyelectrolyte polymer. The thesis includes an analysis of the kinetic and thermodynamic factors governing DNA condensate morphology in solution, and discusses implications for future applications of DNA condensation in vitro as a model system for testing theories of polyelectrolyte collapse. In addition, DNA condensation by folded bovine protamine, a naturally occurring multivalent oligopeptide responsible for packing genomic DNA in bovine sperm cells, has been studied as well. The analysis of morphology, size, DNA strand packing density, and the stability of structural integrity of DNA condensates obtained with folded bovine protamines suggests that we have reconstituted native sperm cell chromatin. The results of this study were used to model the local structure of bovine sperm cell chromatin.
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