The Quantum Biology of Reactive Oxygen Production in Electron Transfer Flavoprotein
Lecture 3. Lecturer: Prof. Carlos Martino
Title: The Quantum Biology of Reactive Oxygen Production in Electron Transfer Flavoprotein
Abstract: Quantum Biology, the study of quantum effects in biological systems, holds the promise of providing mechanistic insight into emergent properties of living systems including memory, learning, and cognition. Interestingly, while the exploitation of quantum coherences by molecular species is a hallmark of quantum biological systems, there are few systematic studies exploring the intrinsic interactions between these species via highly anisotropic hyperfine coupling and with dynamic external fields. Our research team has been pioneering a novel domain of quantum biology: the non-classical mechanisms of biological production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by influencing coherent spin dynamics in a radical pair (RP) reaction. A theoretical basis for this idea has been well established in the canonical quantum biological system, cryptochrome (CRY). However, the extension of this framework to other biochemical systems that contain active sites with similar microstructures has yet to be established and tested experimentally. One putative quantum biological system is human electron transfer flavoprotein (ETF). Like CRY, ETF binds an FAD cofactor and contains a similar active site microstructure. We propose to test the hypothesis that the RP formed during ROS production in ETF is responsive to the local hyperfine structure and to dynamic external magnetic fields. We seek to use advanced computational techniques to model and predict behavior at the molecular and RP scales. Additionally, we seek to develop a novel experimental platform that will allow us to measure how dynamic magnetic and RF fields influence ETF activity in real-time. We expect to observe emergent biomechanical oscillations (‘quantum beats’) in ROS production that link the structure (hyperfine centers) and function (magnetosensitivity) of ETF – manifesting quantum coherence in the system.