Research: Vibrationally assisted olfaction.
Currently olfaction - or the sense of smell - is described by a key-and-lock model, which states that whether an odorant enters and activates a receptor only depends on the shape of molecule and protein. But recent experiments have shown that insects are able to differentiate between deuterated and non-deuterated odorants. When deuterating a molecule its vibrational profile is changed but not its shape, leading to a possible debunking of the current theory. The new theory of vibrationally assisted olfaction suggests that the activation of the olfaction receptor is caused by a electron transfer across the protein, through the odorant.
In my research I test whether this is possible by examining the MOR244-3 receptor, an olfaction receptor found in mice. Does the deuterating really affect the activation of the receptor, or does the extra mass slow the odorants down, so they become incapable of diffusing all the way to the activation site?