Entanglement in biology; how nature controls the topology of proteins and DNA (13w5133)

Arriving in Banff, Alberta Sunday, November 17 and departing Friday November 22, 2013


Kenneth Millett (University of California, Santa Barbara)

(University of Saint Thomas)

(University of Saskatchewan)

(University of Lausanne)

(University of Warsaw)


The Banff International Research Station will host the " Entanglement in biology; how nature controls the topology of proteins and DNA" workshop from November 17th to November 22nd, 2013.

The last decade has shown that there are an increasing number of
known proteins that contain linear open knots or slipknots in their
native folded structure. In general, knots in proteins are orders of

magnitude less frequent than would be expected for random polymers

with similar length, compactness, and flexibility. Explaining why

they are so rare is an intriguing question. In principle, the

polypeptide chains that fold into knotted native protein structures

encounter more thermodynamic problems than unknotted proteins.

Therefore, it is believed that knotted protein structures were, in

part, eliminated during evolution since proteins that fold slowly

and/or non-reproducibly should be evolutionarily disadvantageous for

the hosting organisms. Nevertheless, researchers have found several

families of proteins that reproducibly form simple knots, complex

knots, and slipknots. The discovery of these knotted proteins has

challenged our preconceptions about the complexity of biological

objects, and has inspired significant research to discover how the

tangling properties affect the function of the protein. Curiously,

substantial mathematical challenges have arisen.

How do we define the terms ``knot'' and ``slipknot'' in open chains?

How does one rigorously study the entanglement structure found in proteins?

With progress, we expect

that many challenging theoretical problems will arise. Additionally,

over the last decade, while tremendous advances have been made in

understanding the tangling of DNA, many mysteries remain.

This workshop is conceived in response to recent pioneering

experimental discoveries and developments that have taken place in

biology, biophysics, and mathematics. To fully understand how nature

controls the topology of proteins and DNA, much theoretical, numerical,

and experimental progress will be required. This progress requires

the effort of top researchers working at the interface of mathematics,

biology, chemistry, and physics. This workshop will bridge these

fields, inspiring cutting-edge interdisciplinary collaborations, and

defining the key problems for the next decade.

The Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery (BIRS) is a collaborative Canada-US-Mexico venture that provides an environment for creative interaction as well as the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and methods within the Mathematical Sciences, with related disciplines and with industry. The research station is located at The Banff Centre in Alberta and is supported by Canada's Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Alberta's Advanced Education and Technology, and Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT).