Proteins on piano

DNA musical scoreA new musical theory of the universe might be possible.

Roland Piquepaille’s Technology Trends reports, “Microbiologists from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) have converted DNA sequences of human proteins into music, so you can listen to the sound of proteins. One of the researchers, who is both a microbiologist and a skilled pianist, found a way to “cram the 20 standard amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) into just 13 notes.”

In “Genes come alive with the sound of music,” Nature adds that it’s not the first time that researchers have tried “to convert biological structures into music, but Takahashi says it differs from its predecessors because the chord assignment limits the music to within a one-and-a-half octave spread, making it, in her opinion, more pleasing to the ear.” And here is what the team did.

More water-loving or hydrophilic amino acids have been assigned a chord in a higher key, while water-hating or hydrophobic ones are lower. So similar amino acids sound alike. And the duration for which a chord is played is determined by the prevelance of its ‘codon’ (the three DNA letters that make up an amino acid) in the sequence. So amino acids that make up a good chunk of a protein will be played for longer than those that are rare within the protein. This gives the piece a rhythm that says something about the repetitive structure of the protein.

You can listen to several examples of music created by this method.