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A team of scientists from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University has gained insight into how electric fields affect the way energy from light drives molecular motion and transformation in a protein commonly used in biological imaging. A better understanding of this phenomenon, which is crucial to many biological systems, could enable researchers to finely tune a system’s properties to harness these effects, for example, by using light to control neurons in the brain.
When light hits certain chromophores in proteins, it causes them to twist and change shape. This atomic reconfiguration, known as photoisomerization, changes the molecule’s chemical and physical properties. The hallmark…