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More Evidence of Quantum Behavior at Biological Scale: Proton Tunneling in DNA

By Dr. Inés Urdaneta / Physicist at Resonance Science Foundation

Former RSF articles had addressed quantum effects that have been observed in biology, more precisely, in the microtubules, giving plausible support to the fact that biology, just as consciousness, could have a quantum origin.   

Now, a paper published in the journal Communications Physics, entitled An open quantum systems approach to proton tunnelling in DNA,  is shedding light on the physical mechanisms that might cause the protons to jump across between the DNA strands.

The DNA strands usually depicted as two double helices, are composed of molecules named nucleotides, which organize in two strains to form each of the helices, as depicted below:


Figure 1: DNA strands composed of nucleotides or molecules Thymine (T), Adenine (A), Guanine (G) and Cytosine (C), which organize creating a double helix. Image source : 


To study such proton transfer, the authors analyzed theoretically through quantum chemistry calculations, the process of proton transfer between the basis pair Guanine–Cytosine composing the DNA, represented in the figure below which depicts the proton transfer reaction. 


Figure 2: Rendering of the reaction path of Slocombe et al, Hydrogen atoms are shown in white, nitrogen in blue, carbon in grey, and oxygen in red. 

The authors of this theoretical quantum chemical study at University of Surrey, have found that the local environs of the cells cause the protons to be thermally activated and “encourage them” to go through a mechanism know in quantum physics as “tunneling”.  

Quantum tunneling refers the capacity that quantum particles have, to cross obstacles, regions of space which would demand having an energy that in principle they don’t have. A classical analog would be the following: a runner having to climb a wall, would require the additional energy to jump the wall but instead, it is like the wall becomes transparent to him, and he is able to cross it with extremely low energy loss. Like if the runner had become a phantom, or it had suddenly acquired a condition in which he was “absorbed by the wall and reemitted by the wall” on the other side. 


Source image: SuhhterStock/VectorMine

Quantum mechanics predicts that this tunnel effect happens for very short ranges of time and distance, and at very low temperatures. As any quantum behavior, it is expected to be extremely fragile to the environmental conditions, which noise would swipe out the quantumness and order of the regime. Therefore, at ambient conditions, any quantum behavior is expected to be completely absent, which is why biology was in principle supposed to belong mainly to the classical regime. The emergent field of study called Quantum biology, was formally stablished in 2018, because quantum effects were confirmed under conditions presumed impossible for it to happen.    

Interestingly, this study is yet another strong confirmation, as it has found that thanks to quantum tunneling, protons manage to get across, at ambient conditions! The protons were found to be continuously and very rapidly tunneling back and forth between the two strands, which would also explain the origin of mutations in DNA.

As an extract of the abstract says:

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.


RSF in perspective:

In the paper Unified Physcis and the Nexus of awareness, its author, William Brown, described tautomeric shifts by proton tunneling as one mechanism of information transfer between the spacememory network, the environment, and organism for directed evolution. This study provides further confirmation of such an effect.

It is important to remark that tunneling, just as entanglement, is a very poorly understood phenomenon in modern physics because the vacuum fluctuations have not been included. From the perspective of the Unified field theory derived by Nassim Haramein, is becomes clear that tunneling and entanglement are processes assisted by the quantum vacuum, which is the source of spin and angular momentum of the systems (such as matter) that emerge from its dynamics.  

Although it is becoming clearer the mechanism accounting for proton transfer, it is yet unclear the reason that allows tunneling to enhance its capacity under conditions that are supposed to quench it.

The physical mechanism that accounts for it, is due to spin, which is another poorly understood physical feature of modern physics, and to which Haramein’s generalized holographic theory provides a straightforward explanation in terms of the quanta of action, known in his model as the Planck Spherical units -PSU-.   




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