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Topological patterns in two-dimensional gel electrophoresis of DNA knots

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E5471-5477
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number40
Early online date10 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2015


Gel electrophoresis is a powerful experimental method to probe the topology of DNA and other biopolymers. Although there is a large body of experimental work that allows us to accurately separate different topoisomers of a molecule, a full theoretical understanding of these experiments has not yet been achieved. Here we show that the mobility of DNA knots depends crucially and subtly on the physical properties of the gel and, in particular, on the presence of dangling ends. The topological interactions between these and DNA molecules can be described in terms of an “entanglement number” and yield a nonmonotonic mobility at moderate fields. Consequently, in 2D electrophoresis, gel bands display a characteristic arc pattern; this turns into a straight line when the density of dangling ends vanishes. We also provide a novel framework to accurately predict the shape of such arcs as a function of molecule length and topological complexity, which may be used to inform future experiments.

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