A perspective on the molecular simulation of DNA from structural and functional aspects
As genetic material, DNA not only carries genetic information by sequence, but also affects biological functions ranging from base modification to replication, transcription and gene regulation through its structural and dynamic properties and variations. The motion and structural properties of DNA involved in related biological processes are also multi-scale, ranging from single base flipping to local DNA deformation, TF binding, G-quadruplex and i-motif formation, TAD establishment, compartmentalization and even chromosome territory formation, just to name a few. The sequence-dependent physical properties of DNA play vital role in all these events, and thus it is interesting to examine how simple sequence information affects DNA and the formation of the chromatin structure in these different hierarchical orders. Accordingly, molecular simulations can provide atomistic details of interactions and conformational dynamics involved in different biological processes of DNA, including those inaccessible by current experimental methods. In this perspective, which is mainly based on our recent studies, we provide a brief overview of the atomistic simulations on how the hierarchical structure and dynamics of DNA can be influenced by its sequences, base modifications, environmental factors and protein binding in the context of the protein–DNA interactions, gene regulation and structural organization of chromatin. We try to connect the DNA sequence, the hierarchical structures of DNA and gene regulation.