Soft Matter and Physics of Biopolymers

Welcome to our webpage! We are interested in the theoretical and computational study of soft matter systems, with a special interest in biopolymers. Our current research is focused on the sequence-dependent mechanical properties of DNA, supported by a Junior Leader Fellowship from la Caixa Foundation and the Marie Skłodowoska-Curie COFUND action.

Go to the "People" tab to meet us! You can find out what we are working on by clicking on the "Research" tab or peeking at the publication list.


13 September 2022
How do the elastic constants of nucleic acids change under mechanical stress? Have a look at the new preprint of the SMPB lab, great job led by Juan Luengo and our former BSc student Juan Zalvide!

04 September 2022
A first version of MADnaLAB is online, kudos to our strict collaborator Pablo Ibañez for enabling simulations with MADna on GPUs! Documentation and presenting article are in the oven!

01 August 2022
New paper on the forces at interfaces between ice and water stemming from Juan's Master Thesis. Congratulations to both Juan and his MSc tutor Luis MacDowell!

01 July 2022
A big welcome to Nerea Alcázar, who has joined the SMPB group as a Postdoctoral Researcher! Looking forward to a lot of interesting science!

21 June 2022
Juan and Salvatore presented the work of the group at the 8th Iberian Biophysics Congress. Congratulations to Juan for obtaining the prize for the best Poster presentation!

13 April 2022
Juan's paper accepted on J. Phys. Cond. Matter! Check out the theory on retardation effects in Van der Waals interactions between surfaces.

8 April 2022
Our paper on the development of MADna is finally out on JCTC! Check out the tools for its implementation in LAMMPS.

18 February 2022
New preprint of a study on the unfolding action of Hsp70 chaperones!

Contact & Links

Research Interests

DNA Mechanics

DNA Mechanics

DNA carries all the information needed for survival and reproduction of a cell. This information is physically encoded by forming chains of nucleotides (A,C,G,T) in a specific order, thus obtaining a four-letters encoding string. The well-known double helix in which these chains are geometrically organized is far from being homogeneous. Experimental evidence shows indeed that the actual geometry locally deviates from an ideal double-helix, according to the sequence of the fragment under inspection. Thus, the composition of the DNA molecule is also reflected into its specific conformational features, which in turn evidence the presence of sequence- dependent elastic properties. These features play a key role in promoting or inhibiting the interaction with the protein machinery of the cell, thus ultimately affecting the epigenetic regulation of DNA and the emergence of diseases should such regulation fail.
Our current research line is focused on investigating the sequence-dependent mechanical properties of DNA and their role in biocellular processes. This will be achieved mainly by means of our coarse-grained model MADna, which provides an accurate sequence-dependent description of the elasticity and conformation of double-stranded DNA based on a recent extensive dataset of all-atom simulations.
This project will receive the support of a fellowship from la Caixa Foundation (ID 100010434) and from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowoska-Curie grant agreement No 874648.

Publications List

  1. Force-dependent elasticity of nucleic acids
    J. Luengo-Márquez, J. Zalvide-Pombo, R. Pérez and S. Assenza
    ArXiv preprint (2022)

  2. Intermolecular forces at ice and water interfaces: Premelting, surface freezing, and regelation
    J. Luengo-Márquez, F. Izquierdo-Ruiz and L. G. MacDowell
    J. Chem. Phys. 157, 044704 (2022)

  3. A novel fluorescent multi-domain protein construct reveals the individual steps of the unfoldase action of Hsp70
    S. Tiwari, B. Fauvet, S. Assenza, P. De Los Rios and P. Goloubinoff
    Biorxiv preprint (2022)

  4. Accurate sequence-dependent coarse-grained model for conformational and elastic properties of double-stranded DNA
    S. Assenza and R. Pérez
    J. Chem. Theory Comput. 18, 3239 (2022)

  5. Analytical theory for the crossover from retarded to non-retarded interactions between metal plates
    J. Luengo-Márquez* and L. G. MacDowell
    J. Phys.: Condens. Matter. 34, 275701 (2022) ( *Co-corresponding Author )

  6. Lifshitz theory of wetting films at three phase coexistence: The case of ice nucleation on Silver Iodide (AgI)
    J. Luengo-Márquez* and L. G. MacDowell
    J. Coll. Interf. Sci. 590, 527 (2021) ( *Co-corresponding Author )

  7. Enzymatic hydrolysis of monoacylglycerols and their cyclopropanated derivatives: Molecular structure and nanostructure determine the rate of digestion
    L. Salvati Manni, M. Duss, S. Assenza, B. J. Boyd, E. M. Landau and W.-K. Fong
    J. Coll. Interf. Sci. 588, 767 (2021)

  8. Interplay between confinement and drag forces determine the fate of amyloid fibrils
    K. B. Smith, M. Wehrli, A. Japaridze, S. Assenza, C. Dekker and R. Mezzenga
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 124, 118102 (2020)

  9. Efficient conversion of chemical energy into mechanical work by Hsp70 chaperones
    S. Assenza, A. S. Sassi, R. Kellner, B. Schuler, P. De Los Rios and A. Barducci
    eLife 8, e48491 (2019)

  10. Six-fold director field configuration in amyloid nematic and cholesteric phases
    M. Bagnani, P. Azzari, S. Assenza and R. Mezzenga
    Sci. Rep. 9, 12654 (2019)

  11. Soft condensed matter physics of foods and macronutrients
    S. Assenza and R. Mezzenga
    Nature Reviews Physics 1, 551 (2019)
    (Click here to access it for free)

  12. Spatiotemporal Control of Enzyme‐Induced Crystallization Under Lyotropic Liquid Crystal Nanoconfinement
    J. J. Vallooran, S. Assenza and R. Mezzenga
    Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 58, 7289 (2019)

  13. Impact of Molecular Partitioning and Partial Equilibration on the Estimation of Diffusion Coefficients from Release Experiments
    R. Ghanbari, S. Assenza*, P. Zueblin and R. Mezzenga
    Langmuir 35, 5663 (2019) ( *Co-first author )

  14. Soft biomimetic nanoconfinement promotes amorphous water over ice
    L. Salvati Manni, S. Assenza*, M. Duss, J. J. Vallooran, F. Juranyi, S. Jurt, O. Zerbe, E. M. Landau and R. Mezzenga
    Nat. Nanotechnology 14, 609 (2019) ( *Co-first author )

  15. The interplay of channel geometry and molecular features determines diffusion in lipidic cubic phases
    R. Ghanbari, S. Assenza and R. Mezzenga
    J. Chem. Phys. 150, 094901 (2019)

  16. Confinement‐Induced Ordering and Self‐Folding of Cellulose Nanofibrils
    K. B. Smith, J.‐N. Tisserant, S. Assenza, M. Arcari, G. Nyström and R. Mezzenga
    Adv. Sci. 6, 1801540 (2019)

  17. Efficient Asymmetric Synthesis of Carbohydrates by Aldolase Nano-Confined in Lipidic Cubic Mesophases
    T. Zhou, J. J. Vallooran, S. Assenza, A. Szekrenyi, P. Clapés and R. Mezzenga
    ACS Catal. 8, 5810 (2018)

  18. Curvature and bottlenecks control molecular transport in inverse bicontinuous cubic phases
    S. Assenza and R. Mezzenga
    J. Chem. Phys. 148,054902 (2018)
  19. Shape of a Stretched Polymer
    A. S. Sassi, S. Assenza* and P. De Los Rios
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 119, 037801 (2017) ( *Corresponding Author )
  20. Diffusion of Polymers through Periodic Networks of Lipid-Based Nanochannels
    R. Ghanbari, S. Assenza*, A. Saha and R. Mezzenga
    Langmuir 33,3491 (2017) ( *Co-first author )
  21. Quantifying the transport properties of lipid mesophases by theoretical modelling of diffusion experiments
    L. M. Antognini, S. Assenza, C. Speziale and R. Mezzenga
    J. Chem. Phys. 145,084903 (2016)
  22. Quantifying the role of chaperones in protein translocation by computational modeling
    S. Assenza*, P. De Los Rios and A. Barducci
    Front. Mol. Biosci. 2,8 (2015) ( *Co-corresponding Author )
  23. Universal Behavior in the Mesoscale Properties of Amyloid Fibrils
    S. Assenza, J. Adamcik, R. Mezzenga and P. De Los Rios
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 113, 268103 (2014)
  24. Emerging Meso- and Macroscales from Synchronization of Adaptive Networks
    R. Gutiérrez, A. Amann, S. Assenza, J. Gómez-Gardeñes, V. Latora, and S. Boccaletti
    Phys. Rev. Lett. 107, 234103 (2011)
  25. Emergence of structural patterns out of synchronization in networks with competitive interactions
    S. Assenza, R. Gutiérrez, J. Gómez-Gardeñes, V. Latora, and S. Boccaletti
    Sci. Rep. 1,99 (2011)
  26. Enhancement of cooperation in highly clustered scale-free networks
    S. Assenza, J. Gómez-Gardeñes and V. Latora
    Phys. Rev. E 78,017101 (2008)

Software Tools

Here you can find some tools that we developed. Click on the image of the tool to use it (in some cases, you will be redirected to a GitHub page). The tools can be freely used, and relevant references are listed for each of them. Please cite the appropriate articles if you use the tools in your research!
Structure of lipid mesophases
Structural info of mesophases
Diffusion in mesophase
Diffusion Coefficient in Water Channels
DNA Mechanics
Mechanically-accurate DNA (MADna)

IDP potential
IDP potential from this article

Open Positions

We always welcome inquiries from prospective PhD students or postdocs interested in joining us to pursue nice research projects. Get in touch to discuss possible funding opportunities offered by national and international programs.

Current Members

Click on the pictures for further info

Salvatore Assenza
Salvatore Assenza
Principal Investigator
Nerea Alcázar
Nerea Alcázar Cano
Juan Luengo
Juan Luengo Márquez
PhD Student
Eva Zunzunegui
Eva Zunzunegui Bru
PhD Student
(@ETH Zürich, co-advised with R. Mezzenga)
Diego Alcon
Diego Alcón Vela
MSc Student
(co-advised with R. Pérez)
Julia Rubio
Julia Rubio Loscertales
MSc Student
(co-advised with J. Luengo)
Antonio Bosch
Antonio Miguel Bosch Fernández
MSc Student


• Juan Zalvide Pombo, BSc, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain (2020-2021)
• Julia Rubio Loscertales, BSc, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain (2020-2021)
• Aarnau Martorell, MSc, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain (2020-2021)
• Rodrigo Rosado del Castillo, BSc, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain (2019-2020)
• Paride Azzari, MSc, ETH Zürich, Switzerland (2017-2018)
• Luca Antognini, MSc, ETH Zürich & EPFL, Switzerland (2016-2017)
• Alberto Sassi, MSc, EPFL, Switzerland (2014-2015)

Present and Past Collaborators

Pierre Goloubinoff
Laura R. Arriaga
IFIMAC & Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain)
Juan Aragonés
Juan Aragonés
IFIMAC & Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain)
Pablo Ibañez
Pablo Ibañez
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain)
Pierre Goloubinoff
Pierre Goloubinoff
University of Lausanne (Switzerland)
Rubén Pérez
Rubén Pérez
IFIMAC & Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain)
Livia Salvati Manni
Livia Salvati Manni
The University of Sydney (Australia)
Khay Fong
Khay Fong
The University of Newcastle (Australia)
Jose Vicente Álvarez
Jose Vicente Álvarez
IFIMAC & Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain)
Raffaele Mezzenga
Raffaele Mezzenga
ETH Zürich (Switzerland)
Paolo De Los Rios
Paolo De Los Rios
EPFL (Switzerland)
Alessandro Barducci
Alessandro Barducci
Centre de Biochimie Structurale de Montpellier (France)
Vito Latora
Vito Latora
Queen Mary, University of London (United Kingdom)
Jesús Gómez Gardeñes
Jesús Gómez Gardeñes
Universidad de Zaragoza (Spain)