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Marc McKee, a professor in McGill's Faculty of Dentistry and the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, and his team, along with collaborators from Johns Hopkins University, shed light on how certain biological structures -- like terrestrial and marine snail shells -- can have both clockwise and counterclockwise spirals, not only within the same species, but also within the shell of an individual organism.


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In an article published online in Science Advances , Professor McKee and his team constructed chiral see "What is chirality? Remarkably, they could also make the helicoids turn clockwise or counterclockwise by simply using only either the left-handed or right-handed version of the amino acids aspartic acid and glutamic acid -- these being abundant in proteins that guide biomineralization processes in many organisms. Our work predicts how pathologic chiral malformations might arise in human otoconia and could one day be used to develop therapies for vertigo loss of balance based on this understanding.

Have you ever heard of Jeremy the snail? He became famous in because unlike most of his fellow brown garden snails, his shell spirals counter-clockwise. This anomaly made it hard for British researchers studying Jeremy to find him a mate. Why is the spiral of Jeremy's shell so important? Because it's one example of a widespread phenomenon found throughout nature: chirality.

Objects that are mirror images of each other are considered to be chiral if it's impossible to superimpose them on each other. That is, whichever way you turn them, they will never be the same. Jeremy's shell, with its counterclockwise rotation, cannot be superimposed onto the clockwise-rotating shells of the vast majority of his fellow snails.

Advanced Materials Early View. Lucas V. Zhiming Wang Corresponding Author E-mail address: jmwahng gmail. Alexander O.

Progress in Biological Chirality

Govorov Corresponding Author E-mail address: govorov ohio. Read the full text. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access.

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Share full text access. Please review our Terms and Conditions of Use and check box below to share full-text version of article. Abstract Nature is chiral, thus chirality is a key concept required to understand a multitude of systems in physics, chemistry, and biology. Citing Literature. The explosive advance in the study of asymmetric catalysis over the last four decades has dramatically altered the view on the biomolecular chirality dynamics [,].

Before the era of chiral catalysis, the most common characteristic of the enantiomers was the absence or little difference in the chemical and physical properties. Resent progress in the synthesis of the chiral compound associated with the study of the catalytic asymmetric reactions of carbonyl compounds, allow an understanding of the principles governing the dynamics of structural conformations in the amino acids and proteins of the living organisms [].

Molecular chirality and correspondently a chirality transfer are recognized as sensitive to the broad range of modulators including the internal, external, localized, and diffused determinants. It is notable that molecular chirality exhibits sensitivity to all types of the chemical binding including ionic, covalent, and not-covalent [58]. The generation of chiral imbalance in the chiral molecular systems can occur spontaneously, due to intrinsic instability or induced by external factors [].

In accordance with this instability, the chiral self-organization of molecular complexes is sensitive to the impact of many external factors including electrical metal ions , magnetic, electromagnetic photon , mechanical, and gravity force fields. The discovery of magnetically induced optical activity by Faraday was the first demonstration of the sensitivity of a molecular chirality to the physical parameters of an environment XX [].

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Since then, the sensitivity of the chiral objects to the environmental parameters has been explored at cosmological [], molecular [], atomic [57], and elementary particles levels []. Thus, it is reasonable to be aware that different molecular structure can have the same or different physical properties depending on the nature of the physical effect and chemical environment.

XXI In the specific case of the stereoisomers interaction with an electromagnetic field, we have at last three different situations depending on the energy diapason such as IR, UV and NMR spectra , and method used such as the circular dichroism [40]. The photons chiral object itself of different energy interact with the chiral components of the molecular complex such as electron or proton compromising its equilibrium spatial configuration.

The recent discovery of the quantum chiral light—matter interaction offers fundamentally new functionalities for the charity transfer of the bio-molecular structure related to brain quantum information-processing capability []. The chiral molecules reveal the capability of the self-organization of the helical superstructures. The intermolecular interactions related to the modulation of chirality are the part of the supramolecular chemistry [] and interfacial sciences [,]. The chiral sensing based on the concept of chirality transfer is of great importance. Chain of Cirality Transfer Several relatively new fields of science provide the bridge between dynamic chirality in solid matter physics and bio-chirality.

The chirality transfer or the transfer of handedness is observed between organic and inorganic molecular structure [].

The central point of these studies is the chirality transfer in the variety of forms. XXI I Among them, we can mention the stereo-physics of liquid crystals [] and chiral catalysis []. The modeling macroscopic chirality emerged from the chiral molecular elements is a challenge for theory, computations, and experiments [].

Numerous experimental results demonstrate the transfer of chirality among different length scales ranging from dimensions of the elementary particles to the macro-scale the length of the axon [].

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In particular, it was shown that the chirality at the molecular scale amino, acids, proteins, and polysaccharides could be transferred to the macroscopic and macro- level neurofilaments and inorganic crystals as shown in []. The issue of dimensionality in the chirality transfer effects is critical for brain information processing in the brain and artificial intelligence devices. XXIII The examples of macroscopic chirality are found in the plant kingdom, animal kingdom and all other groups of organisms.

Physical Systems In the quantum spin systems, the symmetry-related phase transitions [78,,] and the transfer of the stereospecific symmetry characters XXIV [97,] are well-known phenomena. The recent advance in the experimental and theoretical areas of many disciplines related to stereochemistry revealed the chirality-induction effects in the various inorganic materials with mono-chiral and hybrid-chirality structures including plasmonic, semiconducting, metal oxide and silica-based compounds [].

The most prominent among the field-induced chirality effects are the following: Coulomb near-field, dipolar , electromagnetic, and plasmonic mechanisms []. The chirality transfer from the spin-quantum system of elementary particles to the atomic structure level is an essential element of basic knowledge and serves as the necessary introduction to the understanding of the chemistry and biochemistry. The nuclei of atoms and associated electron system have an innate chirality.

The chemical phenomena are viewed as associated with the chirality of electron system and nuclear XXV constituents []. The molecular chirality is the consequence of the chirality transfer from the dynamic complex of elementary particles. The transfer of molecular chirality from monomers to polymeric structures has been widely explored and utilized []. In particular, the non-reciprocal single-photon devices allow utilizing the quantum information processing based on the superposition of two operational states in chiral spin—photon system [].

Thus, the stereo-specific effects, including the chirality transfer, are not the unique properties of the organic world. XXVI Quit contrary stereospecific effects are the universal and fundamental character of both organic and inorganic materials. Biological Systems: Basic Set of the Chirality Transfer Levels From the physical world chiral events diversity and complexity point of view our primary concern is the chain of the chirality transfer in biological systems. The very essential prediction of the sequential chain of chital events in the organism was done long before the modern progress in biostereochemistry [].


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Taking the review of newly discovered facts as a basis, we will clarify the natures of elements in this chain and the hierarchy of these elements within the chain. Referring to the hierarchy of a chirality transfer, we will assume based on the review of current publications that it consists of several distinct levels. The basic set of these levels includes the transfer of following types:. After reviewing the elements of the chiral hierarchy, we will examine what is currently known about the sensitivity of each of the hierarchical levels of chirality to the internal and external determinants.

Several reviews provide information about the range of chirality related events [44,45]. From Elementary Particles to Atomic Level The chirality transfer from the elementary particles to the arrangement of atomic orbital was considered in the previous paragraphs. The energy difference parity violation between the ground and excited states of molecular enantiomers in the presence of weak nuclear force is predicted by theory and proved experimentally [,].

Fundamental Symmetry Aspects of Molecular Chirality

From Atomic Orbitals to Molecular Level The wavefunctions of electron orbitals are traditionally considered to be the determinants of the molecular chirality [14]. Consequently, in the stereochemistry, the spatial arrangement of the atomic orbital is the primary determinant of the chiral center's function in bio-molecules, including the amino acids, sugars, and phospholipids.

At present, it is a common recognition that the electronic orbitals of the carbon atom constitute the root contributing to the molecular chirality XXVIII [,].

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In this sense the molecular chirality, is the principal initiator of the origin of the life. We will review the chirality transfer events in the order of their natural sequence. The transfer of the symmetry patterns chirality-induced helicity or chirality-helicity transfer from the amino acids to peptides [] and proteins [] is broadly studied. Four main categories of biological-macromolecules, which exhibit chirality, are proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, and nucleic acids [,].

In the human body about , different proteins introduce the charity phenomenon for all the key physiological, perceptual, cognitive and psychological function of an organism. The chirality transfer from amino acids to proteins secondary and higher order structure is one of the most studied fields in biochemistry.

The chirality of protein folding gained attention in condensed matter physics [14,] and molecular biology [36,]. The stereo-transformations of proteins are a highly dynamic field of science involving the most advanced analytical capabilities [,]. A similar mechanism is responsible for the transfer of molecular-level stereo-specificity chirality to the supra-molecular level helicity in cell membrane rafts during endocytosis [].

The establishment of helical handedness can be formed at the macro-molecular level due to the stereo-ordering regularity of constituted chiral entities at the intra-molecular and intermolecular interactions []. The chirality transfer from the molecular to the supramolecular level nanometer and micrometer scale and the morphological level was observed in the inorganic liquid crystals [], polymers [], and bio-polymers XXIX including cellulose, sugars, proteins, RNA, and DNA. From Molecular to Cellular Level The origin of cell chirality and its role in the upstream laterality are the subject of many reviews [7].

The chirality transfer from the molecular cytoskeleton proteins to the cellular level cell wall and cell shape was demonstrated in the bacterium [,,, ]. Cellular chirality, in a variety of its forms, is governed by crosstalk of the internal and external determinants.