Reaction within the coulomb-cage; science in retrospect

E. Nachliel, M. Gutman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Coulomb-cage is defined as the space where the electrostatic interaction between two bodies is more intensive than the thermal energy (kBT). For small molecule, the Coulomb-cage is a small sphere, extending only few water molecules towards the bulk and its radius is sensitive to the ionic strength of the solution. For charged proteins or membranal structures, the Coulomb-cage can engulf large fraction of the surface and provides a preferred pathway for ion propagation along the surface. Similarly, electrostatic potential at the inner space of a channel can form preferential trajectories passage for ions. The dynamics of ions inside the Coulomb-cage of ions was formulated by the studies of proton-anion recombination of excited photoacids. In the present article, we recount the study of intra- Coulomb-cage reaction taking place on the surface of macro-molecular bodies like micelles, membranes, proteins and intra-protein cavities. The study progressed stepwise, tracing the dynamics of a proton ejected from a photo-acid molecule located at defined sites (on membrane, inter-membrane space, active site of enzyme, inside Large Pore Channels etc.). Accumulation of experimental observations encouraged us to study of the reaction mechanism by molecular dynamics simulations of ions within the Coulomb-cage of proteins surface or inside large pores. The intra-Coulomb-cage proton transfer events follows closely the fine structure of the electrostatic field inside the cage and reflects the shape of nearby dielectric boundaries, the temporal ordering of the solvent molecules and the structural fluctuations of the charged side chains. The article sums some 40 years of research, which in retrospect clarifies the intra-Coulomb-cage reaction mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number184071
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023


  • Coulomb-cage
  • Fast reaction
  • Kinetic analysis
  • Prediction of trajectory
  • Propagation along trajectory


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