In apoptotic cells, genomic DNA molecules are fragmented into multiple fragments with lengths that are integer multiples of approximately 180–200 base pairs (bp), i.e., the size of a single nucleosome. Here we propose a simple mathematical model for interpreting this cleavage pattern of DNA. Under the condition of a purely stochastic cleavage process, we derive a time evolution of the probability distribution of the fragment length by a Poisson distribution. We examine the applicability of our model by analyzing experimental results with apoptotic cells. Our model enables us to satisfactorily interpret the experimental trends. Interestingly, this theoretical fitting of the experimental data provides kinetic information for the cleavage reaction.

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