Activation mechanism of olfactory receptors
Yen-Chen Lee1*, Ching-I Huang1, Chun-Chung Chen2, Hsiu-Hau Lin1
1Department of Physics, National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan
2Institute of Physics, Academia Sinica, Nankang, Taipei, Taiwan
* presenting author:李晏榛,
Recent olfactory experiments show that ​Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) can differentiate different isotopes of odorant molecules. This seems at odds with the commonly accepted shape theory for olfaction: the smell of an odorant molecule is dictated by its size and shape. Note that an odorant molecule's smell is determined by its ability to activate an array of olfactory receptors, with each unique scent activating a unique set of receptors. The mechanism behind this activation is not well understood. An alternative proposal is that activation is due to phonon-assisted tunneling in the receptor. Given the proposed Hamiltonian, we derive an exact formula for the tunneling rate, study its dependence on the relevant parameters and determine what parameter values make the hypothesis viable.

Keywords: quantum biology, vibrational theory, olfactory receptor