Biochemical controls: sight from initial molecule's actions (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Wednesday, March 22, 2023, 20:26 (262 days ago) @ David Turell

Very first biochemistry for sight:

"It only involves a microscopic change of a protein in our retina, and this change occurs within an incredibly small time frame: it is the very first step in our light perception and ability to see. It is also the only light-dependent step. PSI researchers have established exactly what happens after the first trillionth of a second in the process of visual perception, with the help of the SwissFEL X-ray free-electron laser of the PSI.

"At the heart of the action is our light receptor, the protein rhodopsin. In the human eye it is produced by sensory cells, the rod cells, which specialize in the perception of light. Fixed in the middle of the rhodopsin is a small kinked molecule: retinal, a derivative of vitamin A. When light hits the protein, retinal absorbs part of the energy. With lightning speed, it then changes its three-dimensional form so the switch in the eye is changed from "off" to "on." This triggers a cascade of reactions whose overall effect is the perception of a flash of light.


"During this "breathing in" stage, the protein temporarily loses most of its contact with the retinal that sits in its middle. "Although the retinal is still connected to the protein at its ends through chemical bonds, it now has room to rotate." At that moment, the molecule resembles a dog on a loose leash that is free to give a jerk.

"Shortly afterwards the protein contracts again and has the retinal firmly back in its grasp, except now in a different more elongated form. "In this way the retinal manages to turn itself, unimpaired by the protein in which it is held."

"The transformation of the retinal from 11-cis kinked form into the all-trans elongated form only takes a picosecond, or one trillionth (10-12) of a second, making it one of the fastest processes in all of nature."

Comment: what taught the molecule to react that way? Darwinian trial and error? Laughable. Only design fits.

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