Stacking interactions in denaturation of DNA fragments
School of Science and Technology - CNISM, Università di Camerino, I-62032, Camerino, Italy
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Revised: 7 June 2011
Accepted: 14 July 2011
Published online: 14 July 2011
A mesoscopic model for heterogeneous DNA denaturation is developed in the framework of the path integral formalism. The base pair stretchings are treated as one-dimensional, time-dependent paths contributing to the partition function. The size of the paths ensemble, which measures the degree of cooperativity of the system, is computed versus temperature consistently with the model potential physical requirements. It is shown that the ensemble size strongly varies with the molecule backbone stiffness providing a quantitative relation between stacking and features of the melting transition. The latter is an overall smooth crossover which begins from the adenine-thymine-rich portions of the fragment. The harmonic stacking coupling shifts, along the T -axis, the occurrence of the multistep denaturation but it does not change the character of the crossover. The methods to compute the fractions of open base pairs versus temperature are discussed: by averaging the base pair displacements over the path ensemble, we find that such fractions signal the multisteps of the transition in good agreement with the indications provided by the specific heat plots.
© EDP Sciences, SIF, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg, 2011