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9th International Conference on Structural Biology

Zurich, Switzerland

Henry M Sobell

Henry M Sobell

Emeritus Professor

Title: The centers of premeltons signal the beginning and ends of genes


Biography: Henry M Sobell


Premeltons are examples of emergent structures (i.e., structural solitons) that arise spontaneously in DNA due to the presence of nonlinear excitations in its structure.  They are of two kinds: B-B (or A-A) premeltons form at specific DNA-regions to nucleate site-specific DNA melting.  These are stationary and, being globally nontopological, undergo breather motions that allow drugs and dyes to intercalate into DNA.  B-A (or A-B) premeltons, on the other hand, are mobile, and being globally topological, act as phase-boundaries transforming B- into A- DNA during the structural phase-transition.  They are not expected to undergo breather-motions.  A key feature of both types of premeltons is the presence of an intermediate structural-form in their central regions (proposed as being a transition-state intermediate in DNA-melting and in the B- to A- transition), which differs from either A- or B- DNA. Called beta-DNA, this is both metastable and hyperflexible – and contains an alternating sugar-puckering pattern along the polymer-backbone combined with the partial-unstacking (in its lower energy-forms) of every other base-pair.  Beta-DNA is connected to either B- or to A- DNA on either side by boundaries possessing a gradation of nonlinear structural-change, these being called the kink and the antikink regions.  The presence of premeltons in DNA leads to a unifying theory to understand much of DNA physical-chemistry and molecular-biology.  In particular, premeltons are predicted to define the 5’ and 3’ ends of genes in naked-DNA and DNA in active-chromatin, this having important implications for understanding physical aspects of the initiation, elongation and termination of RNA-synthesis during transcription.  For these and other reasons, the model will be of broader interest to the general audience working in these areas.  The model explains a wide variety of data, and carries within it a number of experimental predictions – all readily testable – as will be described in my talk.


  1.   Sobell HM, (2016) Premeltons in DNA. Journal of Structural and Functional Genomics 17:17-31.
  2.   Sobell HM, (2013) Organization of DNA in Chromatin.  Rather than bending uniformly along its length, nucleosomal DNA is proposed to consist of multiple segments of B- and A- DNA held together by kinks when forming its left-handed toroidal superhelical structure. Explanatory publications. ISBN 978-0-692-01974-0.