Luís A. Nunes Amaral

co-Director, Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems
Professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering
Professor of Physics & Astronomy (by courtesy)
Professor of Medicine (by courtesy)

Chemical & Biological Engineering
2145 Sheridan Road (Room E136)
EvanstonIL 60208US
Phone: (847) 491-7850


To gain a deeper insight into cellular processes such as transcription and translation, one needs to uncover the mechanisms controlling the configurational changes of nucleic acids. As a step toward this aim, we present here a mesoscopic-level computational model that provides a new window into nucleic acid dynamics. We model a single-stranded nucleic as a polymer chain whose monomers are the nucleosides. Each monomer comprises a bead representing the sugar molecule and a pin representing the base. The bead-pin complex can rotate about the backbone of the chain. We consider pairwise stacking and hydrogen-bonding interactions. We use a modified Monte Carlo dynamics that splits the dynamics into translational bead motion and rotational pin motion. By performing a number of tests, we first show that our model is physically sound. We then focus on a study of the kinetics of a DNA hairpin-a single-stranded molecule comprising two complementary segments joined by a noncomplementary loop-studied experimentally. We find that results from our simulations agree with experimental observations, demonstrating that our model is a suitable tool for the investigation of the hybridization of single strands.