Inspired by recent experiments on the spatial organization of bacterial chromosomes, we consider a type of “bottle-brush” polymer consisting of a flexible backbone chain, to which flexible side loops are connected. We show that such a model with an open linear backbone spontaneously adopts a helical structure with a well-defined pitch when confined to small cylindrical volume. This helicity persists over a range of sizes and aspect ratios of the cylinder, provided the packing fraction of the chain is suitably large. We analyze these results in terms of the interplay between the effective stiffness and actual intrachain packing effects caused by the side loops in response to the confinement.

Phys. Rev. Lett.
Theory of Biomolecular Matter

Chaudhuri, D., & Mulder, B. (2012). Spontaneous helicity of a polymer with side-loops confined to a cylinder. Phys.Rev.Lett., 108(Article number: 268305), 1–5. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.268305