Kevin B Henbest

University of Oxford, Oxford, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (24)161.99 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Broadband cavity-enhanced absorption spectroscopy (BBCEAS) is shown to be a sensitive method for the detection of magnetic field effects (MFEs) in two flavin-based chemical reactions which are simple models for cryptochrome magnetoreceptors. The advantages of optical cavity-based detection and (pseudo-white-light) supercontinuum radiation have been combined to provide full spectral coverage across the whole of the visible spectrum (425 < λ< 700 nm). This region covers the absorbance spectra of flavin mononucleotide (FMN) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) as well as their photogenerated radicals. To illustrate the power of this technique, BBCEAS has been used to record the spectral dependence of MFEs for photoinduced radical pairs formed in the intermolecular reaction of FMN with lysozyme and the intramolecular photochemistry of FAD. These reactions have been chosen for their photochemical similarities to cryptochrome proteins which have been proposed as key to the magnetic compass sense of many animals including birds. In experiments performed using low protein concentrations (10 μM) and 1 mm optical path-lengths, absorbance changes as small as 1 ¤ 10(-7) (representing < 0.1% MFEs) have been detected with good signal-to-noise offering the prospect of sensitive MFE detection in cryptochrome.
    The Journal of Physical Chemistry B 03/2014; · 3.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Among the biological phenomena that fall within the emerging field of "quantum biology" is the suggestion that magnetically sensitive chemical reactions are responsible for the magnetic compass of migratory birds. It has been proposed that transient radical pairs are formed by photo-induced electron transfer reactions in cryptochrome proteins and that their coherent spin dynamics are influenced by the geomagnetic field leading to changes in the quantum yield of the signaling state of the protein. Despite a variety of supporting evidence, it is still not clear whether cryptochromes have the properties required to respond to magnetic interactions orders of magnitude weaker than the thermal energy, k(B)T. Here we demonstrate that the kinetics and quantum yields of photo-induced flavin-tryptophan radical pairs in cryptochrome are indeed magnetically sensitive. The mechanistic origin of the magnetic field effect is clarified, its dependence on the strength of the magnetic field measured, and the rates of relevant spin-dependent, spin-independent, and spin-decoherence processes determined. We argue that cryptochrome is fit for purpose as a chemical magnetoreceptor.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 03/2012; 109(13):4774-9. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The study of radical pair intermediates in biological systems has been hampered by the low sensitivity of the optical techniques usually employed to investigate these highly reactive species. Understanding the physical principles governing the spin-selective and magneto-sensitive yields and kinetics of their reactions is essential in identifying the mechanism governing bird migration, and might have significance in the discussion of potential health hazards of electromagnetic radiation. Here, we demonstrate the powerful capabilities of optical cavity-enhanced techniques, such as cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS) in monitoring radical recombination reactions and associated magnetic field effects (MFEs). These include submicrosecond time-resolution, high sensitivity (baseline noise on the order of 10(-6) absorbance units) and small (μL) sample volumes. Combined, we show that these represent significant advantages over the single-pass flash-photolysis techniques conventionally applied. The studies described here focus on photoinduced radical pair reactions involving the protein lysozyme and one of two possible photosensitizers: anthraquinone-2,6-disulphonate and flavin mononucleotide. CRDS-measured MFEs are observed in pump-probe experiments and discussed in terms of the sensitivity gains and sample-volume minimization afforded by CRDS when compared with flash photolysis methods. Finally, CRDS is applied to an in vitro MFE study of intramolecular electron transfer in the DNA-repair enzyme, Escherichia coli photolyase, a protein closely related to cryptochrome which has been proposed to mediate animal magnetoreception.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 09/2011; 133(44):17807-15. · 10.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We determine the spin-selective kinetics of a carotenoid-porphyrin-fullerene triad that has previously been used to establish the principle that a photochemical reaction could form the basis of the magnetic compass sensor of migratory birds and show that its magnetic sensitivity can be understood without invoking quantum Zeno effects.
    Chemical Communications 06/2011; 47(23):6563-5. · 6.38 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Molecular nanostructures may constitute the fabric of future quantum technologies, if their degrees of freedom can be fully harnessed. Ideally one might use nuclear spins as low-decoherence qubits and optical excitations for fast controllable interactions. Here, we present a method for entangling two nuclear spins through their mutual coupling to a transient optically excited electron spin, and investigate its feasibility through density-functional theory and experiments on a test molecule. From our calculations we identify the specific molecular properties that permit high entangling power gates under simple optical and microwave pulses; synthesis of such molecules is possible with established techniques.
    Physical Review Letters 05/2010; 104(20):200501. · 7.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Here we have employed the effects of weak static magnetic fields (not exceeding 46 mT) on radical recombination reactions to investigate protein-substrate interactions. Pulsed laser excitation of an aqueous solution of anthraquinone-2,6-disulfonate (AQDS(2-)) and either hen egg white lysozyme (HEWL) or bovine serum albumin (BSA) produces the triplet state of the radical pair (T)[AQDS(3-*) Trp(*)] by a photoinduced electron transfer reaction from tryptophan residues. Time-resolved absorption techniques were employed to study the recombination characteristics of these radical pairs at different static magnetic fields and ionic strengths. The experimental data in connection with the simulated curves unequivocally show that the radical pair has a lifetime of the order of microseconds in both systems (HEWL and BSA). However, the radical pair is embedded within a binding pocket of the BSA protein, while the (otherwise identical) radical pair, being subject to attractive Coulomb forces, resides on the protein surface in the HEWL system.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 02/2010; 132(5):1466-7. · 10.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cavity enhanced absorption spectroscopy (CEAS) combined with phase-sensitive detection is employed to study the effects of static magnetic fields on radical recombination reactions. The chemical system comprises the photochemically generated thionine semiquinone radical and a 1,4-diazabicyclo [2.2.2]octane (DABCO) cationic radical in a micellar solution of sodium dodecyl sulphate. Data obtained using the modulated CEAS technique, describing the magnetic field effect (MFE) on reaction yields, are shown to be superior to those obtained using conventional transient absorption (TA) flash photolysis methods typically employed for these measurements. The high sensitivity afforded by modulated CEAS detection is discussed in terms of the new possibilities it offers such as the measurement of magnetic field effects in real biological systems which have hitherto been largely beyond the detection capabilities of existing techniques.
    Molecular Physics 01/2010; 108(7-9):993-1003. · 1.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Optically detected zero-field electron paramagnetic resonance spectroscopy is used to show that weak linearly and circularly polarized radiofrequency magnetic fields affect the recombination reactions of spin-correlated radical pairs to different extents; the spectra are shown to be consistent with the radical pair mechanism.
    Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 09/2009; 11(31):6569-72. · 3.83 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Low-field optically detected EPR spectra of photochemically formed transient radical ion pairs are reported for weak circularly and linearly polarized radiofrequency (RF) fields. The spectra are found to be strongly dependent on the polarization and frequency of the RF field and on the angle between the static magnetic field and the plane containing the RF field. The spectra are discussed in terms of resonances arising from Zeeman and hyperfine interactions; the conditions for validity of the rotating frame approximation are determined. Knowledge of the latter is important when using low-field EPR as a diagnostic test for the operation of the radical pair mechanism.
    Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics 09/2009; 11(31):6573-9. · 3.83 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Magnetic-field effects (MFEs) are used to investigate the photoreaction of xanthone (A) and DABCO (D) in anionic (SDS) or cationic (DTAC) micelles at high pH (DABCO = 1,4-diazabicyclo[2.2.2]octane, SDS = sodium dodecyl sulfate, DTAC = dodecyl trimethyl ammonium chloride). From MFE experiments with nanosecond time resolution, the radical anion A(.)(-) can be observed without any interference from the much more strongly absorbing triplet (3)A*, the different quenching processes can be separated and their rates can be measured. Triplet (3)A* is quenched dynamically both by the SDS micelle (k(1) = 5.0x10(5) s(-1)) and by DABCO approaching from the aqueous phase (k(2) = 2.0x10(9) M(-1) s(-1)). Static quenching by solubilised DABCO (association constant with the SDS micelles, 1.5 M(-1)) also participates at high DABCO concentrations, but is chemically nonproductive and does not lead to MFE generation. The MFEs stemming from the radical ion pairs A(.)(-) D(.)(+) are about 40 times larger in the anionic micelles than in the cationic ones despite a higher yield of free radicals in the latter case. This can be rationalised by different diffusional dynamics: Because of the location of their precursors, A(.)(-) and D(.)(+) are formed at opposite sides of the micelle boundary. Subsequently, the negatively charged Stern layer of the SDS micelle traps the radical cation, which then undergoes surface diffusion, so both the recombination probability and the spin mixing are high; in contrast, the positive surface charge of the DTAC micelle forces the radical cation into the bulk of the solution, thus efficiently blocking a recombination.
    Chemistry 05/2009; 15(24):6058-64. · 5.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: SQUID magnetometry, normally used to characterise the properties of solids, was used to follow a clock reaction in solution, namely the auto-catalytic oxidation of [Co(II)EDTA]2- by H2O2, in real time and it was shown that, in combination with other methods (e.g., magnetic resonance proton relaxation studies and UV-vis absorption analysis), SQUID magnetometry can be a powerful method in elucidating and interpreting the time-profile of chemical reactions so as long as reactants, intermediates and products have suitably large differences in their respective magnetic susceptibilities.
    Dalton Transactions 05/2009; · 3.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The scientific literature describing the effects of weak magnetic fields on living systems contains a plethora of contradictory reports, few successful independent replication studies and a dearth of plausible biophysical interaction mechanisms. Most such investigations have been unsystematic, devoid of testable theoretical predictions and, ultimately, unconvincing. A recent study, of magnetic responses in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, however, stands out; it has a clear hypothesis-that seedling growth is magnetically sensitive as a result of photoinduced radical-pair reactions in cryptochrome photoreceptors-tested by measuring several cryptochrome-dependent responses, all of which proved to be enhanced in a magnetic field of intensity 500 muT. The potential importance of this study in the debate on putative effects of extremely low-frequency electromagnetic fields on human health prompted us to subject it to the 'gold standard' of independent replication. With experimental conditions chosen to match those of the original study, we have measured hypocotyl lengths and anthocyanin accumulation for Arabidopsis seedlings grown in a 500 microT magnetic field, with simultaneous control experiments at 50 microT. Additionally, we have determined hypocotyl lengths of plants grown in 50 microT, 1 mT and approximately 100 mT magnetic fields (with zero-field controls), measured gene (CHS, HY5 and GST) expression levels, investigated blue-light intensity effects and explored the influence of sucrose in the growth medium. In no case were consistent, statistically significant magnetic field responses detected.
    Journal of The Royal Society Interface 03/2009; 6(41):1193-205. · 4.91 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: One of the two principal hypotheses put forward to explain the primary magnetoreception event underlying the magnetic compass sense of migratory birds is based on a magnetically sensitive chemical reaction. It has been proposed that a spin-correlated radical pair is produced photochemically in a cryptochrome and that the rates and yields of the subsequent chemical reactions depend on the orientation of the protein in the Earth's magnetic field. The suitability of cryptochrome for this purpose has been argued, in part, by analogy with DNA photolyase, although no effects of applied magnetic fields have yet been reported for any member of the cryptochrome/photolyase family. Here, we demonstrate a magnetic-field effect on the photochemical yield of a flavin-tryptophan radical pair in Escherichia coli photolyase. This result provides a proof of principle that photolyases, and most likely by extension also cryptochromes, have the fundamental properties needed to form the basis of a magnetic compass.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10/2008; 105(38):14395-9. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Approximately 50 species, including birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, crustaceans and insects, are known to use the Earth's magnetic field for orientation and navigation. Birds in particular have been intensively studied, but the biophysical mechanisms that underlie the avian magnetic compass are still poorly understood. One proposal, based on magnetically sensitive free radical reactions, is gaining support despite the fact that no chemical reaction in vitro has been shown to respond to magnetic fields as weak as the Earth's ( approximately 50 muT) or to be sensitive to the direction of such a field. Here we use spectroscopic observation of a carotenoid-porphyrin-fullerene model system to demonstrate that the lifetime of a photochemically formed radical pair is changed by application of < or =50 microT magnetic fields, and to measure the anisotropic chemical response that is essential for its operation as a chemical compass sensor. These experiments establish the feasibility of chemical magnetoreception and give insight into the structural and dynamic design features required for optimal detection of the direction of the Earth's magnetic field.
    Nature 06/2008; 453(7193):387-90. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Measurements are reported of the effects of 0-23 mT applied magnetic fields on the spin-selective recombination of Py*- and DMA*+ radicals formed in the photochemical reaction of pyrene and N,N-dimethylaniline. Singlet <--> triplet interconversion in [Py*- DMA*+] radical pairs is probed by investigating combinations of fully protonated and fully deuterated reaction partners. Qualitatively, the experimental B1/2 values for the four isotopomeric radical pairs agree with predictions based on the Weller equation using known hyperfine coupling constants. The amplitude of the "low field effect" (LFE) correlates well with the ratio of effective hyperfine couplings, aDMA/aPy. An efficient method is introduced for calculating the spin evolution of [Py*- DMA*+] radical pairs containing a total of 18 spin-1/2 and spin-1 magnetic nuclei. Quantitative analysis of the magnetic field effects to obtain the radical re-encounter probability distribution f (t )-a highly ill-posed and underdetermined problem-is achieved by means of Tikhonov and maximum entropy regularization methods. The resulting f (t ) functions are very similar for the four isotopomeric radical pairs and have significant amplitude between 2 and 10 ns after the creation of the geminate radical pair. This interval reflects the time scale of re-encounters that are crucial for generating the magnetic field effect. Computer simulations of generalized radical pairs containing six spin-1/2 nuclei show that Weller's equation holds approximately only when the radical pair recombination rate is comparable to the two effective hyperfine couplings and that a substantial LFE requires, but is not guaranteed by, the condition that the two effective hyperfine couplings differ by more than a factor of 5. In contrast, for very slow recombination, essentially any radical pair should show a significant LFE.
    Journal of the American Chemical Society 06/2007; 129(21):6746-55. · 10.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cryptochromes (Cry) have been suggested to form the basis of light-dependent magnetic compass orientation in birds. However, to function as magnetic compass sensors, the cryptochromes of migratory birds must possess a number of key biophysical characteristics. Most importantly, absorption of blue light must produce radical pairs with lifetimes longer than about a microsecond. Cryptochrome 1a (gwCry1a) and the photolyase-homology-region of Cry1 (gwCry1-PHR) from the migratory garden warbler were recombinantly expressed and purified from a baculovirus/Sf9 cell expression system. Transient absorption measurements show that these flavoproteins are indeed excited by light in the blue spectral range leading to the formation of radicals with millisecond lifetimes. These biophysical characteristics suggest that gwCry1a is ideally suited as a primary light-mediated, radical-pair-based magnetic compass receptor.
    PLoS ONE 02/2007; 2(10):e1106. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Previously, the effect of applied magnetic fields on the yield of the reaction of the radical ions of pyrene and 1,3-dicyanobenzene (DCB) has been measured by monitoring the emission of the pyrene/1,3-DCB exciplex formed from the singlet state of the spin-correlated radical pair (SCRP). This Letter describes an alternative approach that relies on energy transfer from the excited triplet state of pyrene to the tris(2,2′-bipyridyl)ruthenium(II) ion, , allowing the recombination of the triplet SCRP to be monitored by emission spectroscopy. Measurements of magnetic field effects in combination with time-resolved flash photolysis and luminescence experiments confirm triplet–triplet energy transfer as the reaction mechanism.
    Chemical Physics Letters 01/2006; 421:571-576. · 2.15 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Photoionization of N, N, N', N'-tetramethyl-p-phenylenediamine ( TMPD) in alcoholic solution produces the radical ion pair [TMPD center dot+ e(-)]. However, the identity of the negatively charged counter-radical formed by photolysis of TMPD in DMSO (dimethylsulphoxide)/toluene mixtures, for which unusually large effects of weak applied magnetic fields have been observed, is unclear. Modulated MARY (Magnetically Affected Reaction Yield) experiments on solutions containing different isotopomers of TMPD, DMSO and toluene show that the counter-radical is likely to be the solvated electron. This result supports the idea that large effects of weak fields on radical recombination yields can be expected for radical pairs in which the electron-nuclear hyperfine interactions are concentrated in one of the radicals, rather than being distributed more evenly between the two radicals.
    Molecular Physics 01/2006; · 1.67 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The effects of simultaneously applied weak static and weak radio frequency magnetic fields on the recombination of transient (<100 ns) radical pairs have been investigated using a low-field optically detected electron paramagnetic resonance technique. Measurements on the photoinduced electron-transfer reaction of perdeuterated pyrene with 1,3-dicyanobenzene using a approximately 0.3 mT radio frequency field at three separate frequencies (5, 20, and 65 MHz) in the presence of 0-4 mT static fields yield spectra that are strikingly sensitive to the frequency of the time-dependent field, to the strength of the static field, and to the relative orientation of the two fields. The spectra are simulated using a modified form of the gamma-COMPUTE algorithm originally devised for calculating magic angle spinning NMR spectra of polycrystalline samples. The essential features of the spectra are consistent with the radical pair mechanism and were satisfactorily simulated using parameters whose values are either known independently or for which estimates are readily available. The calculations included hyperfine couplings to four deuterons in the pyrene cation radical and three protons in the 1,3-dicyanobenzene anion radical. Spin-selective recombination was modeled using an exponential distribution of radical encounter times. The results are discussed in the context of the proposal that radical pair chemistry forms the basis of the magnetoreceptor that allows birds to sense the Earth's magnetic field as a source of compass information during migration.
    The Journal of Physical Chemistry A 06/2005; 109(23):5035-41. · 2.77 Impact Factor