Understanding the rules of life is one of the most important scientific endeavours and has revolutionised both biology and biotechnology. Remarkable advances in observation techniques allow us to investigate a broad range of complex and dynamic biological processes in which living systems could exploit quantum behaviour to enhance and regulate biological functions. Recent evidence suggests that these non-trivial quantum mechanical effects may play a crucial role in maintaining the non-equilibrium state of biomolecular systems. Quantum biology is the study of such quantum aspects of living systems. In this review, we summarise the latest progress in quantum biology, including the areas of enzyme-catalysed reactions, photosynthesis, spin-dependent reactions, DNA, fluorescent proteins, and ion channels. Many of these results are expected to be fundamental building blocks towards understanding the rules of life.
One of the most important topics in molecular biology is the genetic stability of DNA. One threat to this stability is proton transfer along the hydrogen bonds of DNA that could lead to tautomerisation, hence creating point mutations. We present a theoretical analysis of the hydrogen bonds between the Guanine-Cytosine (G-C) nucleotide, which includes an accurate model of the structure of the base pairs, the quantum dynamics of the hydrogen bond proton, and the influence of the decoherent and dissipative cellular environment. We determine that the quantum tunnelling contribution to the proton transfer rate is several orders of magnitude larger than the classical over-the-barrier hopping. Due to the significance of the quantum tunnelling even at biological temperatures, we find that the canonical and tautomeric forms of G-C inter-convert over timescales far shorter than biological ones and hence thermal equilibrium is rapidly reached. Furthermore, we find a large tautomeric occupation probability of 1.73 × 10−4, suggesting that such proton transfer may well play a far more important role in DNA mutation than has hitherto been suggested. Our results could have far-reaching consequences for current models of genetic mutations.
The adsorption of sodium on Ru(0001) is studied using $^3$He spin-echo spectroscopy (HeSE), molecular dynamics simulations (MD) and density functional theory (DFT). In the multi-layer regime, an analysis of helium...
Proton transfer between the DNA bases can lead to mutagenic Guanine-Cytosine tautomers. Over the past several decades, a heated debate has emerged over the biological impact of tautomeric forms. Here, we determine that the energy required for generating tautomers radically changes during the separation of double-stranded DNA. Density Functional Theory calculations indicate that the double proton transfer in Guanine-Cytosine follows a sequential, step-like mechanism where the reaction barrier increases quasi-linearly with strand separation. These results point to increased stability of the tautomer when the DNA strands unzip as they enter the helicase, effectively trapping the tautomer population. In addition, molecular dynamics simulations indicate that the relevant strand separation time is two orders of magnitude quicker than previously thought. Our results demonstrate that the unwinding of DNA by the helicase could simultaneously slow the formation but significantly enhance the stability of tautomeric base pairs and provide a feasible pathway for spontaneous DNA mutations.
Terahertz radiation impinging on a lit neon tube causes additional ionization of the encapsulated gas. As a result, the electrical current flowing between the electrodes increases and the glow discharge in the tube brightens. These dual phenomena suggest two distinct modes of terahertz sensing. The electrical mode simply involves measuring the electrical current. The optical mode involves monitoring the brightness of the weakly ionized plasma glow discharge. Here, we directly compare the two detection modes under identical experimental conditions. We measure 0.1-THz radiation modulated at frequencies in the range 0.1-10 kHz, for lamp currents in the range 1-10 mA. We find that electrical detection provides a superior signal-tonoise ratio while optical detection has a faster response. Either method serves as the basis of a compact, robust, and inexpensive room-temperature detector of terahertz radiation.
The adenine-thymine tautomer (A*-T*) has previously been discounted as a spontaneous mutagenesis mechanism due to the energetic instability of the tautomeric configuration. We study the stability of A*-T* while the nucleobases undergo DNA strand separation. Our calculations indicate an increase in the stability of A*-T* as the DNA strands unzip and the hydrogen bonds between the bases stretch. Molecular Dynamics simulations reveal the timescales and dynamics of DNA strand separation and statistical ensemble of opening angles present in a biological environment. Our results demonstrate that the unwinding of DNA, an inherently out-of-equilibrium process facilitated by helicase, will change the energy landscape of the adenine-thymine tautomerisation reaction. We propose that DNA strand separation allows the stable tautomerisation of adenine-thymine, providing a feasible pathway for genetic point mutations via proton transfer between the A-T bases.
The misincorporation of a non-complimentary DNA base in the polymerase active site is a critical source of replication errors that can lead to genetic mutations. In this work, we model the mechanism of wobble mispairing and the subsequent rate of misincorporation errors by coupling first-principles quantum chemistry calculations to an open quantum systems master equation. This methodology allows us to accurately calculate the proton transfer between bases, allowing the misincorporation and formation of mutagenic tautomeric forms of DNA bases. Our quantum mechanic model predicts the existence of a short-lived ``tunnelling-ready" configuration along the wobble reaction pathway, effectively compressing the energy barrier for this reaction and dramatically increasing the rate of mismatch formation by a hundredfold. Further, we calculate rates of genetic error formation that are in excellent agreement with experimentally observed mutation rates, demonstrating that quantum tunnelling plays a critical role in determining the transcription error frequency of the polymerase.
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