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Solvent Driving Force Ensures Fast Formation of a Persistent and Well-Separated Radical Pair in Plant Cryptochrome

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journal contribution
posted on 28.01.2015, 00:00 by Gesa Lüdemann, Ilia A. Solov’yov, Tomáš Kubař, Marcus Elstner
The photoreceptor protein cryptochrome is thought to host, upon light absorption, a radical pair that is sensitive to very weak magnetic fields, endowing migratory birds with a magnetic compass sense. The molecular mechanism that leads to formation of a stabilized, magnetic field sensitive radical pair has despite various theoretical and experimental efforts not been unambiguously identified yet. We challenge this unambiguity through a unique quantum mechanical molecular dynamics approach where we perform electron transfer dynamics simulations taking into account the motion of the protein upon the electron transfer. This approach allows us to follow the time evolution of the electron transfer in an unbiased fashion and to reveal the molecular driving force that ensures fast electron transfer in cryptochrome guaranteeing formation of a persistent radical pair suitable for magnetoreception. We argue that this unraveled molecular mechanism is a general principle inherent to all proteins of the cryptochrome/photolyase family and that cryptochromes are, therefore, tailored to potentially function as efficient chemical magnetoreceptors.

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