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Mathematical analysis helps untangle bacterial chromosomes

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When an E. coli cell divides, it must replicate its circular chromosome and pull the resulting circles apart to take up residence in two new cells. It sounds easy enough—like a magician's trick with rings—but actually involves a complicated process of unknotting and unlinking of tangled DNA.

In a new study, published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, SF State Associate Professor of Mathematics Mariel Vazquez and an international team of scientists offer a mathematical analysis of how these chromosomal rings are unlinked by XerCD recombination enzymes.

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