Linear vs Circular – data visualization for plasmids

If you conduct a google image search for “plasmid map” 99% of the results will show a circular map. And that is also what I would expect – but why is that so? Throughout my scientific career I have been trained to expect the virtual expectation to match the nanoscale – plasmids are circular structures of DNA – so we depict them as such. But is that the best way?

To me this seems inaccurate and inefficient to me in many ways by now.

  • First, if I could actually look at my plasmid it would likely be coiled up like a telephone cord, and nowhere near this perfect circle. 
  • Second, drawing a circle takes up a bunch of real estate on paper or the screen – worst of all 90% is usually “backbone” so parts you take for granted and care about only to select the right anti-biotic resistance marker. 
  • So that leads to point number three – we have zoom in every time we want to get to the important part of the map – the insert. Why is that so? Wouldn’t I want to see the most important part of construct in the overview?

We abstract away in all other aspects of visualization – zoom in of an organelle vs the entire cell, data trends vs tables, etc. Why not do the same for plasmids?
So what do you think – is the circular image easier to look at and understand, or the linear one?

Linear, condensed view of pET26b with inserts

Linear, condensed view of pET26b with inserts​


Linear, extended view of pET26b with inserts

Linear, extended view of pET26b with inserts​


Traditional view of pET26b

Traditional plasmid view of pET26b​

Comment on the post or on our social media channels to let us know what you think!