Nuclear spin effects in biological processes

Ofek Vardi, Naama Maroudas-Sklare, Yuval Kolodny, Artem Volosniev, Amijai Saragovi, Nir Galili, Stav Ferrera, Areg Ghazaryan, Nir Yuran, Hagit P. Affek, Boaz Luz, Yonaton Goldsmith, Nir Keren, Shira Yochelis, Itay Halevy, Mikhail Lemeshko, Yossi Paltiel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traditionally, nuclear spin is not considered to affect biological processes. Recently, this has changed as isotopic fractionation that deviates from classical mass dependence was reported both in vitro and in vivo. In these cases, the isotopic effect correlates with the nuclear magnetic spin. Here, we show nuclear spin effects using stable oxygen isotopes (16O, 17O, and 18O) in two separate setups: an artificial dioxygen production system and biological aquaporin channels in cells. We observe that oxygen dynamics in chiral environments (in particular its transport) depend on nuclear spin, suggesting future applications for controlled isotope separation to be used, for instance, in NMR. To demonstrate the mechanism behind our findings, we formulate theoretical models based on a nuclear-spin-enhanced switch between electronic spin states. Accounting for the role of nuclear spin in biology can provide insights into the role of quantum effects in living systems and help inspire the development of future biotechnology solutions.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2300828120
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number32
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 the Author(s).


  • aquaporin
  • electrolysis
  • isotope
  • nuclear spin
  • spin-statistics


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