Electric charge disorder: A key to biological order?

April 30, 2012

Theoretical physicist Ali Naji from the IPM in Tehran and the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues have shown how small random patches of disordered, frozen electric charges can make a difference when they are scattered on surfaces that are overall neutral.

These charges induce a twisting force that is strong enough to be felt as far as nanometers or even micrometers away. These results, about to be published in EPJ E (1), could help to understand phenomena that occurr on surfaces such as those of large .

To measure the strength of the twist that acts on a randomly charged surface, the authors used a sphere which was mounted like a spinning top next to a randomly charged flat substrate. Because small amounts of positive and negative charges were spread in a disordered mosaic throughout both surfaces, they induced transient attractive or repulsive twisting forces. This was regardless of the surfaces' overall electrical neutrality, thus making the sphere spin. Using statistical averaging methods, the authors studied the fluctuations of these forces.

The authors found that the twisting force, created by virtue of the disorder of surface charges, is expected to be much stronger and far-reaching than the remnant forces. The latter are always present, even in the absence of charge disorder, and are due to fluctuations at the atomic and molecular levels.

This could have implications for large randomly charged surfaces such as biological macromolecules, which may be exposed to strong , inducing attraction and/or repulsion, even if they carry no overall net charge. For instance, this phenomenon could partly explain biological pattern recognition, such as lock and key phenomena. In that context, the twisting force could explain the attraction between that lead to pre-alignment prior to their interaction.

Explore further: Researchers see exotic force for first time

More information: European Physical Journal E (EPJ E). DOI 10.1140/epje/i2012-12024-y

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1 / 5 (1) May 01, 2012
If this "phenomenon" does help to explain the receptor-mediated events metaphorically referred to as lock and key phenomena, it also explains more about biological pattern recognition than anything else I've read.

Receptor-mediated events, for example, are responsible for the individual survival of unicellular organisms that respond to nutrient chemicals in their environment. Pre-existing variables in intracellular signaling and resultant stochastic gene expression that change with changes in electrostatic signaling altered by nutrient acquisition enables the adaptive evolution of microbes to newly calibrated ecological niches.

Ecotypes are maintained by chemical signals that result from nutrient metabolism. These chemical signals standardize and control reproduction in social niches already linked to neurogenic niches in mammals. Simply put, you start with the first cell and arrive at brain development in mammals, like humans, via the common molecular biology across all species.

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