Using pruned-enriched Rosenbluth method (PERM) simulations of a discrete wormlike chain model, we provide compelling evidence in support of Odijk's prediction of two distinct Odijk regimes for a long wormlike chain confined in a nanochannel. In both cases, the chain of persistence length lp is renormalized into a series of deflection segments of characteristic length D2/3lp1/3, where D is the channel size. In the first (classic) Odijk regime, these deflection segments are linearly ordered. In the second Odijk regime, thin, long wormlike chains can backfold at a length scale quantified by the global persistence length. We have measured this quantity by simulations and modified Odijk's global persistence length theory to account for thermal fluctuations. The global persistence length, which is defined to be independent of the effect of excluded volume, provides the requisite closure to Odijk's scaling theory for the second regime and thus allows us to resolve much of the confusion surrounding the so-called "transition" regime for DNA confined in a nanochannel. We show that Odijk's theory for the backfolded regime correctly describes both the average chain extension and the variance about this extension for wormlike chains in channel sizes between the classic Odijk regime and the de Gennes blob regimes, with our data spanning several decades in terms of Odijk's scaling parameter ξ. Although the backfolded Odijk regime occupies a very narrow range of D/lp, it is indeed a regime when viewed in terms of ξ and grows in size with increasing monomer anisotropy.
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© 2014 American Chemical Society.