Can a Bacterium works as Electronic switch? Fact File 43

Yes it is possible. The Halobacterium salinarium can be used as a Bioswitch.The bacterial protein Bacteriorhodopsin from Halobacterium salinarium has created great interest among scientists to produce bio-logic gates functioning similar to semiconductor logic gates. It is a bacterial species living in the salt marshy lakes of California. These bacteria can survive at very high temperature of 150 degree Fahrenheit or more and in high salt concentration around six times higher than the sea water. These bacteria have a light sensitive protein called Bacteriorhodopsin (bR) in their cell membrane. This protein exhibits unusual properties of structural changes when exposed to different wavelengths of light. This property of the Bacteriorhodopsin is exploited to create molecular switches.

The Molecular switches increase the possibility of fast random access and transportability of datas in Multimedia systems. If these are used in computers, appreciable amount of size reduction, fast memory access, mass storage of datas etc can be achieved. The ability of Biomolecule to work as switching devices in computers is a major area of research in the present day with the invention of some bacterial proteins which functions exactly similar to the electronic switches.

Bacteriorhodopsin is the light sensitive, heat stable protein present in Halobacterium salinarium. The bR absorbs different wavelengths of light and changes its structure into different forms. For example when it absorbs Red light, its structure changes into one form and retains the structure. When it absorbs Green light, another structure is formed. Thus by exposing to Red and Green lights, it is possible to change the structure of bR exactly similar to the semiconductor logic gates giving high and low outputs in varying voltages.

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