Structure and interactions of biological helices

Alexei A. Kornyshev, Dominic J. Lee, Sergey Leikin, Aaron Wynveen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

242 Scopus citations


Helices are essential building blocks of living organisms, be they molecular fragments of proteins (α -helices), macromolecules (DNA and collagen), or multimolecular assemblies (microtubules and viruses). Their interactions are involved in packing of meters of genetic material within cells and phage heads, recognition of homologous genes in recombination and DNA repair, stability of tissues, and many other processes. Helical molecules form a variety of mesophases in vivo and in vitro. Recent structural studies, direct measurements of intermolecular forces, single-molecule manipulations, and other experiments have accumulated a wealth of information and revealed many puzzling physical phenomena. It is becoming increasingly clear that in many cases the physics of biological helices cannot be described by theories that treat them as simple, unstructured polyelectrolytes. The present article focuses on the most important and interesting aspects of the physics of structured macromolecules, highlighting various manifestations of the helical motif in their structure, elasticity, interactions with counterions, aggregation, and poly- and mesomorphic transitions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)943-996
Number of pages54
JournalReviews of Modern Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 6 2007
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Structure and interactions of biological helices'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this