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Liquid Crystalline DNA

In the laboratory scientists usually investigate the physical and biological properties of DNA in dilute solution.

However, in vivo DNA exists in domains where the localized concentrations are very high. As the aqueous solution concentration of DNA is slowly increased, the macromolecule undergoes spontaneous phase transitions to form at least three distinct liquid crystalline phases which are termed lyotropic phase transitions in the liquid crystal field.

The phase of DNA depicted on the banner photomicrograph of this page is a high-density columnar hexatic liquid crystalline phase where the DNA concentration is 400-500 milligrams per milliliter.

These are concentrations approaching those found in bacterial nucleoids, dinoflagellate chromosomes, virus capsids, and sperm heads indicating that the DNA in these organelles probably exists in a liquid crystalline state.

Our DNA collection contains over 4000 photomicrographs of liquid crystalline DNA in a variety of phases and concentrations. The various textures exhibited by DNA provide a unique kaleidoscope of patterns that is typical of the way nature is viewed under the microscope.

Liquid Crystalline DNA


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