Weird Quantum Tunnelling Effect May Explain Spontaneous DNA Mutations

Weird Quantum Tunnelling Effect May Explain Spontaneous DNA Mutations

Weird Quantum Tunnelling Effect May Explain Spontaneous DNA Mutations

DNA mutations might be caused by a rather weird, but well-known, quantum mechanism called tunnelling. This challenges the notion that quantum behavior doesn’t happen in living cells, and could greatly influence our understanding of genetic mutations.

DNA holds the secrets of life on earth. Its unique structure allows it to store, code, and transform chemical messages into biological material and information. These genetic instructions allow organisms to reproduce, repair, and pass genetic information from one generation to the next – and to do this, DNA needs to replicate.

Over millions of years, DNA replication has evolved to become extremely efficient, rarely making mistakes as certain “check” and “repair” mechanisms exist to prevent potentially detrimental mutations. This does not mean DNA replication is immune to mistakes – certain spontaneous mutations do occur. It’s our understanding of the mechanism behind such mutations that has been slightly more elusive.

Reporting in the journal Nature Communications Physics, physicists and chemists from the University of Surrey say they have discovered a possible mechanism.

“Watson and Crick speculated about the existence and importance of quantum mechanical effects in DNA well over 50 years ago, however, the mechanism has been largely overlooked,” says Professor Jim Al-Khalili in a statement.

DNA has a double-helical structure – two strands of genetic code containing four chemical bases, Thymine (T), Adenine (A), Guanine (G), and Cytosine (C). These chemical bases have very specific ways they interact and bind to each other: T is always bound to A, whereas G is always to C.

Source: iflscience

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Weird Quantum Tunnelling Effect May Explain Spontaneous DNA Mutations

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