1 Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy, Faculty of Science, SDU2 SDU eScience Centre, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (IMADA), Faculty of Science, SDU3 University Oldenburg4 University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign5 SDU eScience Centre, Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (IMADA), Faculty of Science, SDU
The magnetic compass of birds is embedded in the visual system and it has been hypothesized that the primary sensory mechanism is based on a radical pair reaction. Previous models of magnetoreception have assumed that the radical pair-forming molecules are rigidly fixed in space, and this assumption has been a major objection to the suggested hypothesis. In this article, we investigate theoretically how much disorder is permitted for the radical pair-forming, protein-based magnetic compass in the eye to remain functional. Our study shows that only one rotational degree of freedom of the radical pair-forming protein needs to be partially constrained, while the other two rotational degrees of freedom do not impact the magnetoreceptive properties of the protein. The result implies that any membrane-associated protein is sufficiently restricted in its motion to function as a radical pair-based magnetoreceptor. We relate our theoretical findings to the cryptochromes, currently considered the likeliest candidate to furnish radical pair-based magnetoreception.
Biophysical Journal, 2010, Vol 99, Issue 1, p. 40-49