Theoretical Model of Transcription Based on Torsional Mechanics of DNA Template

  • Xining Xu
  • Yunxin ZhangEmail author


Transcription is the first step of gene expression, in which a particular segment of DNA is copied to RNA by the enzyme RNA polymerase (RNAP). Despite many details of the complex interactions between DNA and RNA synthesis disclosed experimentally, much of physical behavior of transcription remains largely unknown. Understanding torsional mechanics of DNA and RNAP together with its nascent RNA and RNA-bound proteins in transcription maybe the first step towards deciphering the mechanism of gene expression. In this study, based on the balance between viscous drag on RNA synthesis and torque resulted from untranscribed supercoiled DNA template, a simple model is presented to describe mechanical properties of transcription. With this model, the rotation and supercoiling density of the untranscribed DNA template are discussed in detail. Two particular cases of transcription are considered, transcription with constant velocity and transcription with torque dependent velocity. Our results show that, during the initial stage of transcription, rotation originated from the transcribed part of DNA template is mainly released by the rotation of RNAP synthesis. During the intermediate stage, the rotation is usually released by both the supercoiling of the untranscribed part of DNA template and the rotation of RNAP synthesis, with proportion depending on the friction coefficient in environment and the length of nascent RNA. However, with the approaching to the upper limit of twisting of the untranscribed DNA template, the rotation resulted from transcription will then be mainly released by the rotation of RNAP synthesis.


Transcription Torsional mechanics Torque dependent velocity 


Supplementary material

10955_2019_2236_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (271 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 270 KB)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Mathematics for Nonlinear Science, Shanghai Key Laboratory for Contemporary Applied Mathematics, Centre for Computational Systems Biology, School of Mathematical SciencesFudan UniversityShanghaiChina

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