The present study characterizes an ion-binding site, a molecular cleft in a signalling molecule such as calmodulin or troponin C, as a damped linear isotropic oscillator potential for small displacements about the origin. Quantitative assessments of the effects of thermal noise and exogenous static magnetic fields are made through a statistical mechanical treatment of the Lorentz-Langevin equation for an ion bound in a molecular cleft. Thermal noise causes a bound ion to be ejected from the site after a bound lifetime dependent upon the thermal noise spectral density. It is shown that the Lorentz-Langevin model requires values of the viscous damping parameter many orders of magnitude below those for bulk water in order to characterize the binding site and to obtain realistic lifetimes for a bound ion. The model predicts that milliTesla-range magnetic fields are required for static field effects on dissociation kinetics. The Lorentz equation also yields a classic coherent solution describing precession of the bound-ion oscillator orientation at the Larmor frequency. The bound-ion dynamics described by this coherent solution are sensitive to microTesla-range static magnetic fields in the presence of thermal noise. Numerical integration of the contribution of thermal noise forces to these dynamics is in good agreement with the results of statistical mechanical analysis, also producing realistic bound lifetimes for only very low viscous damping values. The mechanisms by which modulation of precessional motion might enable a signalling molecule such as calmodulin to detect an exogenous magnetic field are presently unclear.
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