Although its conformation has not been observed directly, double-stranded DNA in solution is usually assumed to be randomly coiled at the level of the DNA double helix. By video light microscopy of ethidium-stained DNA at equilibrium in a nonturbulent hanging drop, in the present study, the 670 kb linear bacteriophage G DNA is found to form a flexible filament that has on average 17 double helical segments across its width. This flexible filament 1) has both asymmetry and dimensions expected of a random coil and 2) has ends that move according to the statistics expected of a random walk. After unraveling the flexible filament-associated DNA double helix near the surface of a hanging drop, recompaction occurs without perceptible rotation of the DNA. Both conformational change and intermolecular tangling of the DNA are observed when G DNA undergoes nondiffusive motion in a hanging drop. The characteristics of the G DNA flexible filament are explained by the assumption that the flexible filament is a random coil of double helical segments that are unperturbed by motion of the suspending medium.
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