Quantum Tunneling and DNA Mutation Time

2019-2020 Spring
Faculty Department of Project Supervisor: 
Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences
Number of Students: 

Quantum tunneling, transport of subatomic particles through energetically forbidden regions, is what underlies numerous phenomena ranging from diodes to enzymes to the formation of Universe. There has been claims that point mutations in DNA strand are caused by proton tunneling (transition of a hydrogen bond to a neighboring covalent bond). This claim, since its first conception in 1963 by Loewdin, has been studied with different methods and precisions.  The most recent results are the DFT calculations by Jim Al-Khalili and his research group. The goal in this undergrad project is to compute time it takes for DNA to mutate (transfrom from its canocial form to tautomeric form) using the time formulae the supervisor and his group has developed. The resulting time will be an indication of if quantum tunneling is really the reason behind the DNA mutation.
The phases of the project are as follows (each phase contains literature search):
1) Understanding the mechanism of quantum tunneling (lectures by the supervisor, reading by the students)
2) Understanding the mutations of the DNA and their effects on the genetic code (a qualitative study, mainly).
3) Understanding the energetics of the DNA strand (Adenin-Tymine) based on the available DFT calculations of the potential.
4) Estimating the DNA mutation time (this will involve numerical analysis)
The project team is planned to involve one MBGB and one Physics or MSNE student but exceptions are possible depending on the background of the students. The experience gained in this project might be useful in understanding other processes such as enzyms and ice.

Related Areas of Project: 
Molecular Biology, Genetics and Bioengineering
Materials Science ve Nano Engineering