Published: Jan. 19, 2005

Data plotMeredith D. Betterton and Frank Julicer (2005). Physical Review E 71, 011904. Download.

Helicase proteins move along double-stranded nucleic-acid molecules and unwind the double helix. This paper presents a theoretical study of the coupling between helicase translocation and duplex unwinding. Two different cases—active and passive opening—are usually distinguished. In active opening, the helicase directly destabilizes the double-stranded nucleic acid sdsNAd to promote opening. Passive opening implies that the helicase binds ssNA available when a thermal fluctuation partially opens the dsNA. We formulate a discrete model for helicase motion. An interaction potential describes how the helicase affects duplex unwinding when near a junction between single-stranded and double-stranded NA. Different choices of the potential correspond to the cases of active and passive opening. An optimal choice of interaction potential leads to a helicase which can unwind NA as rapidly as it translocates on single strands.