Organic nanoelectronics inside us: charge transport and localization in RNA could orchestrate ribosome operation†
Translation – protein synthesis at the ribonucleic acid (RNA) based molecular machine, the ribosome, – proceeds in a similar manner in all life forms. However, despite several decades of research, the physics underlying this process remains enigmatic. Specifically, during translation, a ribosome undergoes large-scale conformational changes of its distant parts, and these motions are coordinated by an unknown mechanism. In this study, we suggest that such a mechanism could be related to charge (electron hole) transport along and between the RNA molecules, localization of these charges at certain sites and successive relaxation of the molecular geometry. Thus, we suppose that RNA-based molecular machines, e.g., the ribosome, could be electronically controlled, having “wires”, “actuators”, “a battery”, and other “circuitry”. Taking transfer RNA as an example, we justify the reasonability of our suggestion using ab initio and atomistic simulations. Specifically, very large hole transfer integrals between the nucleotides (up to above 100 meV) are observed so that the hole can migrate over nearly the whole tRNA molecule. Hole localization at several guanines located at functionally important sites (G27, G10, G34 and G63) is predicted, which is shown to induce geometry changes in these sites, their neighborhoods and even rather distant moieties. If our hypothesis is right, we anticipate that our findings will qualitatively advance the understanding of the key biological processes and could inspire novel approaches in medicine.