Inspired by ideas from the physics of phase transitions and polymer physics, researchers in the Divisions of Physical and Biological Sciences at UC San Diego set out specifically to determine the organization of DNA inside the nucleus of a living cell. The findings of their study, recently published in Nature Communications, suggest that the phase state of the genomic DNA is “just right” — a gel poised at the phase boundary between gel and sol, the solid-liquid phase transition.
Think of pudding, panna cotta — or even porridge. The consistency of these delectables must be just right to be ideally enjoyed. Just as the “sol-gel” phase transition, according to the scientists, seems just right for explaining the timing of genomic interactions that dictate gene expression and somatic recombination.
“This finding points to a general physical principle of chromosomal organization, which has important implications for many key processes in biology, from antibody production to tissue differentiation,” said Olga Dudko, a theoretical biophysicist and professor in the Department of Physics at UC San Diego, who collaborated with colleague Cornelis Murre, a distinguished professor in the Section of Molecular Biology, on the study. Paper. (open access) – Nimish Khanna, Yaojun Zhang, Joseph S. Lucas, Olga K. Dudko, Cornelis Murre. Chromosome dynamics near the sol-gel phase transition dictate the timing of remote genomic interactions. Nature Communications, 2019; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-019-10628-9 More.
From what these researchers report, yes, one can definitely apply the principle. But then one must accept that biology shows evidence of design. “Just right” is rarely an accident.
See also: Carbon dioxide and the Goldilocks Principle
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