Illustrated Glossary of Organic Chemistry

Supercoiling: DNA compaction (to require less space) by coiling of the double helix. A variety of supercoil structures are possible.


DNA supercoil.

Magnified segment of supercoiled
DNA double helix.
Twisting the DNA double helix is just one way in which supercoiling can occur.


The phone cord helix is about 1 meter long.

After 'supercoiling' the phone cord wad is only 10 cm diameter.
A wadded phone cord as a metaphor for DNA supercoiling. When stretched out, the phone cord has a helical structure, but is quite long. It occupies less space when wadded into a ball.