Path integral method for DNA denaturation.

  • Marco Zoli
  • Published 2009 in
    Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and…


The statistical physics of homogeneous DNA is investigated by the imaginary time path integral formalism. The base pair stretchings are described by an ensemble of paths selected through a macroscopic constraint, the fulfillment of the second law of thermodynamics. The number of paths contributing to the partition function strongly increases around and above a specific temperature Tc*, whereas the fraction of unbound base pairs grows continuously around and above Tc*. The latter is identified with the denaturation temperature. Thus, the separation of the two complementary strands appears as a highly cooperative phenomenon displaying a smooth crossover versus T. The thermodynamical properties have been computed in a large temperature range by varying the size of the path ensemble at the lower bound of the range. No significant physical dependence on the system size has been envisaged. The entropy grows continuously versus T while the specific heat displays a remarkable peak at Tc*. The location of the peak versus T varies with the stiffness of the anharmonic stacking interaction along the strand. The presented results suggest that denaturation in homogeneous DNA has the features of a second-order phase transition. The method accounts for the cooperative behavior of a very large number of degrees of freedom while the computation time is kept within a reasonable limit.

Cite this paper

@article{Zoli2009PathIM, title={Path integral method for DNA denaturation.}, author={Marco Zoli}, journal={Physical review. E, Statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics}, year={2009}, volume={79 4 Pt 1}, pages={041927} }