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Theory of Living Matter Group

3rd pub meeting


In this informal meeting we will have two talks on chromatin dynamics, an experimental talk and a theoretical talk. Both talks are intended to be understandable for a broad audience. Andrew Travers (MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology) will give a talk on Why DNA?, which will also serve as a general introduction to the field.

The proposal of a double-helical structure for DNA over 60 years ago provided an eminently satisfying explanation for the heritability of genetic information. But why is DNA, and not RNA, now the dominant biological information store? I argue that, in addition to its coding function, the ability of DNA, unlike RNA, to adopt a B-DNA structure confers advantages both for information accessibility and for packaging. The information encoded by DNA is both digital - the precise base sequence specifying, for example, aminoacid sequences - and analogue. The latter determines the sequence-dependent physicochemical properties of DNA, for example its stiffness and susceptibility to strand separation. Most importantly DNA chirality enables the formation of supercoiling under torsional stress. I review recent experimental evidence suggesting that DNA supercoiling, especially that generated by DNA translocases, is a major driver of gene regulation and patterns of chromosomal gene organisation, and in its guise as a promoter of DNA packaging enables DNA to act as an energy store to facilitate the passage of translocating enzymes such as RNA polymerase.

Then, after a short break, Christopher Verstreken (Department of Physics and Stem Cell Institute) will talk about Building a DNA sandcastle: developing a granular model to describe large scale chromatin structure and dynamics .

Aiming to determine the conformation of chromatin on a global scale, this is a computational model that approaches the nucleus as a system of independent yet interacting domains, similar to grains of sand. The mechanical behaviour of a nucleus under compression could therefore provide information about its structure and dynamics.

After the talks there will be plenty of time for informal discussions. We will serve some snacks and there will be opportunities to order food and drinks.

Date and venue

Date: Wednesday, 18th March from 6-8pm

Venue: The Brew House, 1 King St, CB1 1LH Cambridge, top floor

The Brew House is located between Christ's College and Jesus College. There will be signs which will guide the way.


To judge attendance please briefly register here in case you plan to take part:
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Do you think your experimental work might benefit from theoretical insights? Are you a theorist who would like to present his work to an interdisciplinary audience? Then why not give a talk in one of our meetings? Just send us an email at .