biochemistry

biochemistry

[bahy-oh-kem-uh-stree]
biochemistry, science concerned chiefly with the chemistry of biological processes; it attempts to utilize the tools and concepts of chemistry, particularly organic and physical chemistry, for elucidation of the living system. The science has been variously referred to as physiological chemistry and as biological chemistry. Molecular biology, a term first used in 1950, is used to describe the area of research, closely related to and often overlapping biochemistry, conducted by biologists whose approach to and interest in biology are principally at the molecular level of organization. The related field of biophysics brings to biology the techniques and attitudes of the physicist. Cell biology is concerned with the organization and functioning of the individual cell and depends greatly on biochemical techniques. As the study of life forms demonstrated similar or even identical processes occurring in widely divergent species, it has taken the biochemist to unravel the underlying chemical basis for these phenomena. Biochemists study such things as the structures and physical properties of biological molecules, including the proteins, the carbohydrates, the lipids, and the nucleic acids; the mechanisms of enzyme action; the chemical regulation of metabolism; the molecular basis of genetic expression; the chemistry of vitamins; chemoluminescence; biological oxidation; and energy utilization in the cell. The study of the chemistry of the immune response offers the possibility of treatment and cure for such diseases as AIDS and lupus.

See L. Stryer, Biochemistry (3d ed. 1988); C. K. Mathews and K. E. van Holde, Biochemistry (1990); G. Zubay, Biochemistry (3d ed. 1993).

Field of science concerned with chemical substances and processes that occur in plants, animals, and microorganisms. It involves the quantitative determination and structural analysis of the organic compounds that make up cells (proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids) and of those that play key roles in chemical reactions vital to life (e.g., nucleic acids, vitamins, and hormones). Biochemists study cells' many complex and interrelated chemical changes. Examples include the chemical reactions by which proteins and all their precursors are synthesized, food is converted to energy (see metabolism), hereditary characteristics are transmitted (see heredity), energy is stored and released, and all biological chemical reactions are catalyzed (see catalysis, enzyme). Biochemistry straddles the biological and physical sciences and uses many techniques common in medicine and physiology as well as those of organic, analytical, and physical chemistry.

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