Navigation Links
Toxic molecule may help birds 'see' north and south
Date:6/22/2009

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. Researchers at the University of Illinois report that a toxic molecule known to damage cells and cause disease may also play a pivotal role in bird migration. The molecule, superoxide, is proposed as a key player in the mysterious process that allows birds to "see" Earth's magnetic field.

The discovery, reported this month in Biophysical Journal, occurred as a result of a "mistake" made by a collaborator, said principal investigator Klaus Schulten, who holds the Swanlund Chair in Physics at Illinois. His postdoctoral collaborator, Ilia Solov'yov, of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, did not know that superoxide was toxic, seeing it instead as an ideal reaction partner in a biochemical process involving the protein cryptochrome in a bird's eye.

Cryptochrome is a blue-light photoreceptor found in plants and in the eyes of birds and other animals. Schulten was the first to propose (in 2000) that this protein was a key component of birds' geomagnetic sense, a proposal that was later corroborated by experimental evidence. He made this prediction after he and his colleagues discovered that magnetic fields can influence chemical reactions if the reactions occur quickly enough to be governed by pure quantum mechanics.

"Prior to our work, it was thought that this was impossible because magnetic fields interact so weakly with molecules," he said.

Such chemical reactions involve electron transfers, Schulten said, "which result in freely tumbling spins of electrons. These spins behave like an axial compass."

Changes in the electromagnetic field, such as those experienced by a bird changing direction in flight, appear to alter this biochemical compass in the eye, allowing the bird to see how its direction corresponds to north or south.

"Other researchers had found that cryptochrome, acting through its own molecular spins, recruits a reaction partner that operates at so-called zero spin. They suggested that molecular oxygen is that partner," Schulten said. "We propose that the reaction partner is not the benign oxygen molecule that we all breathe, but its close cousin, superoxide, a negatively charged oxygen molecule."

When Solov'yov showed that superoxide would work well as a reaction partner, Schulten was at first dismissive.

"But then I realized that the toxicity of superoxide was actually crucial to its role," he said. The body has many mechanisms for reducing concentrations of superoxide to prevent its damaging effects, Schulten said. But this gives an advantage, since the molecule must be present at low concentrations but not too low "to make the biochemical compass work effectively," he said.

Although known primarily as an agent of aging and cellular damage, superoxide recently has been recognized for its role in cellular signaling.

However, its toxicity may also explain why humans, who also have cryptochrome in their eyes, do not have the same ability to see Earth's electromagnetic field, Schulten said.

"Our bodies try to play it safe," he said. "It might be that human evolution chose longevity over orientational ability."


'/>"/>

Contact: Diana Yates
diya@illinois.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Source:Eurekalert  

Related biology news :

1. Genetic differences in clover make one type toxic
2. UT researcher earns $1.3M grant to study toxic cleanup at DOD sites
3. Scientists ramp up ability of poplar plants to disarm toxic pollutants
4. Toxic releases down from North American industry leaders, increasing from other facilities
5. A search for protection against chemotherapy cardiotoxicity
6. New chemical tool kit manipulates mitochondria, reveals insights into drug toxicity
7. Motor neuron disease and toxic substances: Possible link?
8. Dental chair a possible source of neurotoxic mercury waste
9. Domoic acid from toxic algal blooms may cause seizures in California sea lions
10. New oral angiogenesis inhibitor offers potential nontoxic therapy for a wide range of cancers
11. Toxic chemicals found in common scented laundry products, air fresheners
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Toxic molecule may help birds 'see' north and south
(Date:1/25/2017)... , Jan. 25, 2017 The Elements of ... (IAM) lifecycle is comprised of a comprehensive set ... purpose of maintaining digital identities and providing a ... applications. There are significant number of programs opted ... to time by optimizing processes and changing policies. ...
(Date:1/23/2017)... latest mobile market research from Acuity Market Intelligence reveals ... average price of a biometric smartphone decreased from $849 ... are now 120 sub-$150 models on the market at ... a year ago at an average price of $127. ... Acuity Market Intelligence Principal, "Biometric Smartphones are a global ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... Calif. , Jan. 19, 2017 ... enhancing user experience and security for consumer electronics, ... next-generation payment processing systems and cybersecurity solutions, today ... banks, enterprises and financial institutions worldwide to bolster ... of the end-to-end secure user authentication platforms they ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/23/2017)... Madison, Wisconsin (PRWEB) , ... February 23, 2017 ... ... their Drug Discovery Services portfolio to include an array of biochemical ... clients with reliable data to drive their hit-to-lead and SAR programs, including inhibitor ...
(Date:2/23/2017)... , Feb. 23, 2017  Seattle,s upscale Capitol Hill neighborhood, ... strange place for a head lice treatment salon to set ... a Tuscan restaurant and a French bistro on E Madison ... "We aren,t just any old lice clinic, we pride ourselves ... comfortable, and release some of the stigma associated with lice. ...
(Date:2/23/2017)... ... February 23, 2017 , ... David ... Inventors Recognition Reception at Purdue Research Park of West Lafayette, Indiana. ... recognition of outstanding contributions to, and success with, commercializing discoveries from Purdue research. ...
(Date:2/23/2017)... 2017 Aviva Systems Biology Corporation (ASB) ... of GenWay Biotech Incorporated, a protein solutions and ... offering for both the research and diagnostic markets. ... enhance capabilities for both entities. GenWay,s 18 years of ... nicely complement ASB,s objective to become a leading ...
Breaking Biology Technology: