Unity and Diversity in Biochemistry: An Introduction to Chemical Biology

By Marcel Florkin; T. Wood | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

IN these pages, the reader will find neither a treatise nor a textbook on biochemistry, but a number of essays grouped around ideas of the unity and diversity of organisms in the biochemical sphere. "The manifold and the one" are eternal preoccupations of the human intellect, and we must not be surprised that, from the time biochemistry has been able to gather together a sufficient number of facts, the search for the lowest common denominator of all organisms or a "unity of biochemical plan" has been confused in many minds with the idea of a comparative biochemistry. The latter is a problem which is perhaps more relevant to natural philosphy than to scientific investigation, for we are becoming more and more aware of the extreme diversity of biochemical function arising during cellular differentiation in a single organism, as well as in the multiplicity of species and even of individuals. The biosphere, by which we understand the total amount of living matter, behaves like a chemist of a very special type. All the organic compounds present in the many regions of the biosphere and resulting from its biosynthetic activities have structures lying within certain definite limits. The first part of this book provides a concise catalogue of these structures but is not coincident with the contents of a textbook of organic chemistry provided that the latter is not defined as it was by Berzelius at the beginning of the 19th century, when he wrote that organic chemistry is that section of physiology describing the composition of living things and the chemical reactions going on therein. This definition of organic chemistry is no longer valid today; beginning with the synthesis of a naturally occurring substance, urea, organic chemistry has extended its domain to the synthesis of a tremendous number of non- natural substances. One of the objectives of biochemistry is to define and understand the nature of the collection of compounds composing living matter and to distinguish them from those originating from non- living sources and human inventiveness, all of which are described by the broad generalizations of chemistry.

The biosphere is not only a chemist of a special type, but also one of great antiquity whose methods have been developed over a long period of time since long before there were laboratories of organic chemistry, and are of an efficiency far from being paralleled in these laboratories. This point is developed further in the two essays which make up Parts 2 and 3 of this book with the intention of demonstrating the originality of this organic chemist who has laboured since the dawn of time and comparing his methods with those of the laboratory chemist. The essays making up

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Unity and Diversity in Biochemistry: An Introduction to Chemical Biology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Abbreviations vii
  • Translator's Preface ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Part One xv
  • Chapter I - The Biosphere 1
  • Chapter II - Constituents of the Biosphere 7
  • References 14
  • References 24
  • References 30
  • References 37
  • References 43
  • References 56
  • Chapter III - Modes of Linkage by Covalent Bonds 57
  • References 60
  • References 62
  • References 77
  • References 82
  • Chapter IV - Macromolecules 83
  • References 85
  • References 93
  • References 107
  • References 111
  • Part Two - Enzymes and Biochemical Energetics 129
  • Chapter I - General Principles of Biochemical Energetics 131
  • References 150
  • Chapter II - Enzymes 151
  • References 176
  • Part Three - Chemical Reactions in the Biosphere 177
  • Introduction 179
  • Chapter I - Destructive and Non-Destructive Methods in Modern Biochemistry 181
  • References 182
  • References 184
  • References 185
  • Chapter II - Priming Reactions 186
  • References 197
  • References 199
  • References 207
  • References 209
  • References 223
  • Chapter III - Biosyntheses 229
  • Part Four - Topobiochemistry and Cellular Regulation 271
  • Chapter I - Cellular Topochemistry 273
  • Conclusions 280
  • References 280
  • Chapter II - Cellular Regulation 282
  • References 286
  • Part Five - Biochemical Diversity 287
  • Chapter I - Some Aspects of Biochemical Diversity 289
  • References 303
  • Chapter II - The Inheritance of Biochemical Characteristics 304
  • References 316
  • Chapter III - Biochemistry and Taxonomy 317
  • References 332
  • Chapter IV - Biochemical Evolution 333
  • References 335
  • References 345
  • Part Six - The Metabolism of the Biosphere 347
  • Introduction 349
  • Chapter I - Entry into the Biosphere 351
  • References 365
  • Chapter II - Departure from the Biosphere 366
  • References 370
  • Chapter III - The Cycles 371
  • References 380
  • Index 381
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