Bogolyubov Institute for Theoretical Physics
of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Maxim Frank-Kamenetskii
(A Brief Biographical Sketch)

Maxim D. Frank-Kamenetskii is the world famous scientist working in the field of biological physics. His studies of DNA physics have laid the foundations for the understanding of the fundamental mechanisms of biological processes. M.D. Frank-Kamenetskii is the author of the theories of thermal denaturation of DNA double helix (helix-coil transition), the topological effects in polymer systems and biological molecules, the polyelectrolyte properties of DNA, the process of DNA double helix supercoiling, the electron-vibrational spectra of polyatomic molecules and numerous applications of DNA theory achievements in modern biotechnology. M.D. Frank-Kamenetskii is the author of the discovery of the intramolecular triplex structure of DNA (the H-form).

Maxim Frank-Kamenetskii is a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (since 1991), a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (since 2008). Maxim Frank-Kamenetskii has served in editorial boards of several international biophysical journals, he was invited speaker and chairman on more than 200 scientific conferences. Maxim Frank-Kamenetskii - author of more than 220 scientific publications, his works are published in the most authoritative scientific journals and are highly cited. He has been acting as expert on scientific projects evaluation for the Governments of Russian Federation and India. In 2014 he was awarded the Mendel Medal of Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic for achievements in the field of life sciences.
Maxim Davidovich Frank-Kamenetskii was born on August 7, 1941. He studied at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, graduated in 1964 on specialty “biophysics”. In 1967 he defended his PhD thesis and in 1971- the thesis of Doctor of Sciences in physics and mathematics.

In 1967 - 1978 he worked as a researcher at the I.V. Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy in Moscow;
in 1979 he became head of Laboratory of Theoretical Biophysics at the Institute of Molecular Genetics of USSR Academy of Sciences;
in 1989 - 1993 he took charge of the Department of Genome Expression of the Institute of Molecular Genetics of Russian Academy of Sciences.

Since 1967 he taught at the Department of Molecular Biophysics in Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, from 1979 he became a professor, and from 1989, until his departure to the United States of America, he became the head of this department. Since November 1993, he is a professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University.

Current address:
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University
44 Cummington Mall, Boston, Massachusetts 02215

Main results and achievements
  • DNA melting (1964-1984). MFK elaborated powerful computer methods to calculate the DNA melting curve for an arbitrary sequence of nucleotides. Besides, the full picture of slow relaxation processes in DNA melting was elaborated. It was the first DNA physical phenomenon, for which a detailed theoretical model was formulated that adequately described experimental data.
  • Breathing of the double helix (1966-1985). Kinetics of DNA unwinding by formaldehyde was thoroughly studied and the lifetimes and probabilities of base pairs opening are determined. The base pair opening probability was determined as 10-5, which agreed with the value stemmed from the extrapolation to a low temperature of the DNA melting theory and supported by the high-resolution NMR data.
  • Knots and links in polymers and in DNA (1974-1988). MFK was the first to solve the problem of knots and links for polymers in general and for DNA in particular. Using a mathematical theory of knots and Monte Carlo method he and his associates calculated the knotting probability for an adequate DNA model. These results have been extensively used by many polymer theorists and initiated an entire field of polymer topology.
  • Theoretical modeling of DNA supercoiling (1979-present). Over the years, MFK and his associates have elaborated a remarkably successful model, which permits to calculate various properties of supercoiled DNA. The model includes a very limited number of parameters, which have been determined from independent experiments. The results of accurate computer calculations of supercoiled DNA are in good agreement with numerous experiments and widely used by experimentalists to analyze electron-microscopy results and other data.
  • Unusual DNA structures (1979-present).MFK has made major contribution in our understanding of DNA versatility with respect to different unusual structure. He and his associates were among the very first to apply two-dimensional gel electrophoresis to study DNA unusual structures formed under negative superhelical stress. A major discovery of MFK and his associates in this field is triplex H-DNA, which is formed under superhelical stress in homopurine-homopyrimidine regions. Discovered by MFK and his associates, H-DNA remains among the most striking DNA unusual structures.
  • Intermolecular triplexes and PNA (1988-present). Discovery of H-DNA greatly stimulated interest in intermolecular triplexes. MFK and his collaborators were among the very first to demonstrate the possibility of sequence-specific targeting of duplex DNA via triplex formation. They have introduced a number of new techniques to study intermolecular triplexes, such as co-migration, photofootprinting, electron microscopy. More recently MFK has been engaged in studies of Peptide Nucleic Acid (PNA), a new promising drug recognizing duplex DNA. Due to his exceptional contribution to the field MFK has become one of the leading world experts in gene targeting techniques.
  • Base stacking and base pairing contributions into stability of DNA double helix (2004-present). Partitioning of the contributions from nucleic bases interactions in complementary pairs and stacking interactions between the bases along DNA chain to the double helix stability is the fundamental problem of DNA physics and has significant implications in a number of biological processes. MFK with coworkers developed original approach to quantitative resolving of this problem, and were first to obtain unquestionable evidence of the dominations of base stacking interactions in the duplex overall stability but also in the dependence of DNA double helix stability on its nucleotide sequence.

Maxim Frank-Kamenetskii published numerous popular-science articles and several editions of science-popular book about DNA "The Most Important Molecule" in six languages (Russian, Georgian, Slovakian, Italian, English and French) (English editions: "Unraveling DNA" (VCH, New York, 1993); "Unraveling DNA. The Most Important Molecule of Life" (Addison-Wesley, 1997). In 2004, he published a new extensively revised version of his DNA book under the title “The DNA Age” (in Russian), and in 2010 another edition under the title “The Queen of the Living Cell: From DNA Structure to Biotechnology Revolution” (in Russian).

In 2015 Maxim Frank-Kamenetskii was honored the degree of Doctor Phylosophiae Honoris Causa of the Bogolyubov Institute for Theoretical Physics for his distinguished contribution to theoretical physics of biological systems.

 List of major review articles

1. A.A.Vedenov, A.M.Dykhne and M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii "Helix-coil transition in DNA": Usp.Fiz.Nauk 105, 479-519 (1971). (English translation: Sov.Phys.-Usp. 14, 715-736 (1972)).
2. Y.S.Lazurkin, M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii and E.N.Trifonov "Melting of DNA: its study and application as a research method": Biopolymers 9, 1253-1306 (1970).
3. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii and Y.S.Lazurkin "Conformational changes in DNA molecules": Annu.Rev.Biophys.Bioeng. 3, 127-150 (1974).
4. D.Frank-Kamenetskii and A.V.Lukashin "Vibronic interactions in polyatomic molecules": Usp.Fiz.Nauk 116, 193-229 (1975). (English translation: Sov.Phys.-Usp. 18, 391-409 (1976)).
5. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii and A.V.Vologodskii "Topological aspects of polymer physics: theory and its biophysical applications": Usp.Phys.Nauk 134, 641-673 (1981).[English tanslation: Sov. Phys. Usp. 24, 679-696 (1981)].
6. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii "Fluctuational motility of DNA":in Structure & Motion: Membranes, Nucleic Acids & Proteins, Eds. E.Clementi, et al., pp.417-432, Adenine Press, NY (1985).
7. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii, V.V.Anshelevich and A.V.Lukashin "Polyelectrolyte model of DNA": Usp.Phys.Nauk 151, 595-618 (1987).[English tanslation: Sov. Phys. Usp. 30, 317-330 (1987).
8. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii "DNA supercoiling and unusual structures" in: DNA topology and its biological effects. pp.185-215, ed. by N.R.Cozzarelli and J.C.Wang, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, 1990.
9. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii "Protonated DNA structures" in: "Nuclear Acids and Molecular Biology", vol.4 pp. 1-8, ed. by F.Eckstein and D.M.J.Lilley, Springer-Verlag, 1990.
10. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii and A.V.Vologodskii "Conformational properties of circular DNA's", in: Theoretical Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, vol. 1: DNA, pp. 117-123, eds. D.L.Beveridge & R. Lavery, Adenin Press, 1991.
11. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii "DNA topology" in "Biologically Inspired Physics", pp 45-54, Plenum, New York, 1991.
12. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii "Protonated DNA structures" Methods in Enzymology 211, 180-191 (1992).
13. A.V.Vologodskii and M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii "Modeling DNA Supercoiling" Methods in Enzymology 211, 467-480 (1992).
14. S.M.Mirkin, M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii "H-DNA and Related Structures" Ann. Rev. Biophys. Biomol. Struct. 23, 541-576 (1994)
15. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii and S.M.Mirkin "Triplex DNA structures" Ann. Rev. Biochem. 64, 65-95, (1995).
16. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii “Biophysics of the DNA molecule. “ Phys. Reports 288, 13-60 (1997).
17. M. D. Frank-Kamenetskii “Triplexes and Biotechnology”, in Triple Helix Forming Oligonucleotides (eds.: C. Malvy, A. Harel-Bellan & L.L. Pritchard), pp. 285-294, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston (1999).
18. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii “BIOPHYSICS: DNA AND RNA” Encyclopedia of Condenced Matter Physics, Elsevier 95-104 (2005).
19. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii “Physics of DNA” In: Self-Assembly, Pattern Formation and Growth Phenomena in Nano-Systems. Eds. Golovin AA and Nepomnyashchy AA; pp295-326. NATO Science Series II. Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry – vol. 218. Springer, Dordrecht, The Netherlands (2006).
20. A.Vologodskii and M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii “Strong bending of the DNA double helix” Nucl. Acids Res. 41, 6785-92 (2013).
21. M.D.Frank-Kamenetskii and S.Prakash “Fluctuations in the DNA double helix: A critical review” Phys Life Rev 11, 153-170 (2014).