Research + Discoveries

One Universal Free-energy Landscape Supports Efficient Electron Bifurcation Reactions

A paper just published by the Beratan Lab resolves a long standing puzzle in molecular bioenergetics.  A class of reactions that lies at the core of biological energy conversion - and underpins Mitchell’s Nobel Prize winning chemiosmotic hypothesis - had remained enigmatic for nearly 50 years.  Cursory analysis of these reactions suggested that they should “short circuit” and dissipate energy, rather than transduce it.  Jon Yuly, a Physics graduate student at Duke, working with Profs. Beratan and Zhang in Chemistry and collaborators at DOE-NREL (Dr. Cara Lubner) and at Washington State University (Prof. John Peters) figured out the missing link that makes these reactions so effective.  They built a theory that explains what makes these reactions so highly efficient, with wider ranging implications for developing bio-inspired synthetic systems. The research was performed as part of a DOE Energy Frontier Research Center and is continuing with support of a new DOE research grant at Duke. Read more about their exciting discovery in a recent PNAS article available here