Copenhagen chemists make unlikely connection

March 13th, 2015

This article is more than 8 years old.

Discovery could provide critical insight into understanding DNA and proteins

Chemists from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen have become the first to observe that positively-charged phosphorus atoms bind themselves to positively-charged hydrogen atoms.

The startling discovery could become crucial to understanding how biologically important molecules such as DNA and proteins form properly.

“It was thought that atomic charge was global – that is, as something that was uniform and spherically shaped,” Henrik Kjærgaard, one of the chemists behind the discovery along with Anne Hansen and Lin Du, explained.

“But our experiment demonstrates, as clear as day, that the charge is asymmetrical – that small areas of positive charge exist upon atoms that are in fact negative."

READ MORE: Copenhagen University rockets up world's best university rankings

Assumption debunked
As is the case with magnets and alternating current, positively-charged molecules never aim for one another as similarly-charged atoms repel each other..

Until now, scientists have assumed that hydrogen could only create hydrogen bonds with negatively-charged elements such as nitrogen, oxygen and fluoride.

The discovery has been published in Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.


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