Quantum effect could explain how chiral molecules interact: Electron spin polarization promotes recognition between molecules of similar chirality.
Biomolecules from small amino acids to large DNA helices are chiral, and how they interact depends on their chirality. A newly identified quantum effect could help explain how biomolecules’ chirality persists. When two molecules interact, their electron clouds reorganize. In chiral molecules, that reorganization is accompanied by electron spin polarization that enables molecules of the same chirality to interact more strongly than molecules of opposite chirality, reports a research team led by Ron Naaman and Jan M. L. Martin of the Weizmann Institute of Science and David H. Waldeck of the University of Pittsburgh (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2017).
“The mechanism that they have demonstrated is different from any that was previously reported,” comments David N. Beratan of Duke University. “If the idea holds up, it could entirely change the way we think about molecular recognition in biological and organic chemistry.”