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      Quantum effects in biology: golden rule in enzymes, olfaction, photosynthesis and magnetodetection

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          Abstract

          Despite certain quantum concepts, such as superposition states, entanglement, ‘spooky action at a distance’ and tunnelling through insulating walls, being somewhat counterintuitive, they are no doubt extremely useful constructs in theoretical and experimental physics. More uncertain, however, is whether or not these concepts are fundamental to biology and living processes. Of course, at the fundamental level all things are quantum, because all things are built from the quantized states and rules that govern atoms. But when does the quantum mechanical toolkit become the best tool for the job? This review looks at four areas of ‘quantum effects in biology’. These are biosystems that are very diverse in detail but possess some commonality. They are all (i) effects in biology: rates of a signal (or information) that can be calculated from a form of the ‘golden rule’ and (ii) they are all protein–pigment (or ligand) complex systems. It is shown, beginning with the rate equation, that all these systems may contain some degree of quantum effect, and where experimental evidence is available, it is explored to determine how the quantum analysis aids in understanding of the process.

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          Most cited references 81

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          Kinetic Proofreading: A New Mechanism for Reducing Errors in Biosynthetic Processes Requiring High Specificity

           J Hopfield (1974)
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            Evidence for wavelike energy transfer through quantum coherence in photosynthetic systems.

            Photosynthetic complexes are exquisitely tuned to capture solar light efficiently, and then transmit the excitation energy to reaction centres, where long term energy storage is initiated. The energy transfer mechanism is often described by semiclassical models that invoke 'hopping' of excited-state populations along discrete energy levels. Two-dimensional Fourier transform electronic spectroscopy has mapped these energy levels and their coupling in the Fenna-Matthews-Olson (FMO) bacteriochlorophyll complex, which is found in green sulphur bacteria and acts as an energy 'wire' connecting a large peripheral light-harvesting antenna, the chlorosome, to the reaction centre. The spectroscopic data clearly document the dependence of the dominant energy transport pathways on the spatial properties of the excited-state wavefunctions of the whole bacteriochlorophyll complex. But the intricate dynamics of quantum coherence, which has no classical analogue, was largely neglected in the analyses-even though electronic energy transfer involving oscillatory populations of donors and acceptors was first discussed more than 70 years ago, and electronic quantum beats arising from quantum coherence in photosynthetic complexes have been predicted and indirectly observed. Here we extend previous two-dimensional electronic spectroscopy investigations of the FMO bacteriochlorophyll complex, and obtain direct evidence for remarkably long-lived electronic quantum coherence playing an important part in energy transfer processes within this system. The quantum coherence manifests itself in characteristic, directly observable quantum beating signals among the excitons within the Chlorobium tepidum FMO complex at 77 K. This wavelike characteristic of the energy transfer within the photosynthetic complex can explain its extreme efficiency, in that it allows the complexes to sample vast areas of phase space to find the most efficient path.
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              Dephasing-assisted transport: quantum networks and biomolecules

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                (View ORCID Profile)
                Journal
                Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
                Proc. R. Soc. A.
                The Royal Society
                1364-5021
                1471-2946
                May 2017
                May 31 2017
                May 2017
                : 473
                : 2201
                : 20160822
                Article
                10.1098/rspa.2016.0822
                5454345
                28588400
                © 2017

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