Quantum Tunneling and Point Mutations in the DNA

2021-2022 Fall
Faculty Department of Project Supervisor: 
Faculty of Engineering and Natural Sciences
Number of Students: 

Quantum tunneling, transport of atoms and subatomic particles through energetically forbidden regions, is what underlies various phenomena ranging from diodes to enzymes to the formation of the Universe. There have been claims that point mutations in DNA strands are caused by proton tunneling (transition of a hydrogen bond to a neighboring covalent bond). This claim, since its first conception in 1963 by Löwdin, has been studied with different methods and at increasing precisions. It is important to underlie this mechanism since spontaneous point mutations make up 66% of cancer mutations. The goal of this project is to investigate the topic within different biological/physical aspects. The project falls in the growing area of quantum biology. It has three phases (each phase containing 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 based on the available DFT calculations.
The project team is planned to involve 3 students from molecular biology, physics & computer science but exceptions are possible. Elif Özçelik will be an active member of the project team.

Related Areas of Project: 
Computer Science and Engineering
Molecular Biology, Genetics and Bioengineering