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Long-distance electrodynamic interactions among biomolecules

By Marco Pettini, Center for Theoretical Physics and Aix-Marseille University Luminy, Marseille, France


In the first part of this talk I will report on the theoretical and experimental findings about the activation of out-of-equilibrium collective oscillations of a macromolecule as a classical phonon condensation phenomenon.

In the second part of the talk, I will report on the outcomes of two other recent and independent experiments that, based on two different physical effects detected by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy and terahertz spectroscopy, respectively, demonstrate the activation of resonant electrodynamic intermolecular forces acting at long distances. The activation of these long- range/long-distance electrodynamic interactions among biomolecules (proteins) is a consequence of the activation of the out-of-equilibrium collective molecular oscillations discussed in the first part of the talk. The existence of these forces was predicted by both classical and quantum electrodynamics, however, they have never been hitherto experimentally observed.

The discovery of these new forces acting between biomolecules could have considerable impact on our understanding of the dynamics and functioning of the molecular machines at work in living organisms. In fact, it has been found that the model proteins used can mutually attract at a distance as large as 1000 Angstroms, which is by far larger than all the other intermolecular interactions usually considered in action in living matter. In addition to thermal fluctuations that drive molecular motions randomly, these resonant (and thus selective) electrodynamic forces may contribute to molecular encounters in the crowded cellular space.