Experimental Test of Sinai’s Model in DNA Unzipping

The experimental measurement of correlation functions and critical exponents in disordered systems is key to testing renormalization group (RG) predictions. We mechanically unzip single DNA hairpins with optical tweezers, an experimental realization of the diffusive motion of a particle in a one-dimensional random force field, known as the Sinai model. We measure the unzipping forces Fw as a function of the trap position w in equilibrium and calculate the force-force correlator Δm(w), its amplitude, and correlation length, finding agreement with theoretical predictions. We study the universal scaling properties since the effective trap stiffness m2 decreases upon unzipping. Fluctuations of the position of the base pair at the unzipping junction u scales as umζ, with a roughness exponent ζ=1.34±0.06, in agreement with the analytical prediction ζ=43. Our study provides a single-molecule test of the functional RG approach for disordered elastic systems in equilibrium.

  • Received 6 October 2022
  • Accepted 4 April 2023

DOI:https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.130.208401

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Statistical Physics

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