History-dependent nonequilibrium conformations of a highly confined polymer globule in a sphere

S Kwon and BJ Sung, PHYSICAL REVIEW E, 102, 022501 (2020).

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.102.022501

Chromatin undergoes condensation-decondensation processes repeatedly during its cell lifetime. The spatial organization of chromatin in nucleus resembles the fractal globule, of which structure significantly differs from an equilibrium polymer globule. There have been efforts to develop a polymer globule model to describe the fractal globulelike structure of tightly packed chromatin in nucleus. However, the transition pathway of a polymer toward a globular state has been often ignored. Because biological systems are intrinsically in nonequilibrium states, the transition pathway that the chromatin would take before reaching the densely packaged globule should be of importance. In this study, by employing a simple polymer model and Langevin dynamics simulations, we investigate the conformational transition of a single polymer from a swollen coil to a compact globule. We aim to elucidate the effect of transition pathways on the final globular structure. We show that a fast collapse induces a nonequilibrium structure even without a specific intramolecular interaction and that its relaxation toward an equilibrium globule is extremely slow. Due to a strong confinement, the fractal globule never relaxes into an equilibrium state during our simulations such that the globular structure becomes dependent on the transition pathway.

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