Volume 83, Number 5, September 2008
Article Number 58003
Number of page(s) 6
Section Interdisciplinary Physics and Related Areas of Science and Technology
Published online 28 August 2008
EPL, 83 (2008) 58003
DOI: 10.1209/0295-5075/83/58003

Structural transitions and soft modes in frustrated DNA crystals

G. M. Grason

Department of Polymer Science and Engineering, University of Massachusetts - Amherst, MA 01003, USA

received 19 May 2008; accepted in final form 16 July 2008; published September 2008
published online 28 August 2008

Relying on symmetry considerations appropriate for helical biopolymers such as DNA and filamentous actin, we argue that crystalline packings of mutually repulsive helical macromolecules fall principally into two categories: unfrustrated (hexagonal) and frustrated (rhombohedral). For both cases, we construct the Landau-Ginzburg free energy for the 2D columnar-hexagonal to 3D crystalline phase transition, including the coupling between molecular displacements along biopolymer backbone to displacements in the plane of hexagonal order. We focus on the distinct elastic properties that emerge upon crystallization of helical arrays due to this coupling. Specifically, we demonstrate that frustrated states universally exhibit a highly anisotropic in-plane elastic response, characterized by an especially soft compliance to simple-shear deformations and a comparatively large resistance to those deformations that carry the array from the low- to high-density crystalline states of DNA.

87.16.dr - Assembly and interactions.
64.70.Nd - Structural transitions in nanoscale materials.
87.14.gk - DNA.

© EPLA 2008