A realistic DNA target model has been developed and implemented in the biophysical simulation code PARTRAC. It describes five levels of the B-DNA structure (nucleotides, DNA helices, nucleosomes, chromatin fiber structure and chromatin fiber loops) on an atomic level for the whole genome inside a mammalian cell nucleus. The model is capable of describing regular solenoidal, crossed-linker or zigzag structures as well as repeating stochastic arrangements of nucleosomes in the chromatin fiber. Electron tracks resulting from monoenergetic electrons with energies up to 100 keV and from 220 kVp X rays, starting at random positions in the cell, were superimposed on four DNA target models with different chromatin fiber structures. The yields of SSBs, DSBs and short single- and double-stranded DNA fragments were determined from spatial coincidences with strand atoms. Two parameters of the model-the energy necessary to create an SSB and the distance between two breaks that would be scored as a DSB-were adapted to equate simulated and measured strand break yields after X irradiation of human fibroblast cells. The integral fractions of short single- and double-stranded fragments were rather similar for all condensed chromatin fiber structures; they agreed with experimental data for DNA fragments below 2 kbp. The simulated fragment size distributions in the range from 0.1 to 1.5 kbp reflected the fiber structure irrespective of strandedness or electron energy. The distributions using a stochastic arrangement of nucleosomes in the chromatin fiber were found to be in better accordance with experimental data than those obtained with regular fiber structures.

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