Quantum physics may cause DNA mutations

Quantum and classical effects in DNA point mutations: Watson–Crick tautomerism in AT and GC base pairs

Note from Editors: This article is not directly linked to Quantum Computing but may be interesting to our readers.

A team of researchers at University of Surrey used state-of-the-art computer simulations and quantum mechanical methods to determine the role proton tunneling, a purely quantum phenomenon, plays in spontaneous mutations inside DNA.

Proton tunneling involves the spontaneous disappearance of a proton from one location and the same proton’s re-appearance nearby.

The research team found that atoms of hydrogen, which are very light, provide the bonds that hold the two strands of the DNA’s double helix together and can, under certain conditions, behave like spread-out waves that can exist in multiple locations at once, thanks to proton tunneling. This leads to these atoms occasionally being found on the wrong strand of DNA, leading to mutations.

Although these mutations’ lifetime is short, the team has revealed that they can still survive the DNA replication mechanism inside cells and could potentially have health consequences. (Phys.org)

The paper has been published by the journal Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics.

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