Biochemistry is a subject that deals with chemical processes associated with living organisms.
A biochemist studies substances such as cellular metabolism and growth, and reproduction. Other topics under Biochemistry are molecular genetics, immunology, carcinogenesis, and many others.
All aspects of living organisms are studied in detail by biochemists. The discipline of biochemistry is closely related to the life sciences. It also overlaps other scientific subjects, including genetics, cell biology, and physiology. In this article, we define and explain at least 28 of the most common biochemical terms. As you read, keep in mind that our professional writers for hire are ready to assist you with that assignment in case you get stuck.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Twenty different amino acids make protein molecules.
Amino acids are covalently bonded to each other using peptide linkages, which form a polypeptide chain.
The gene sequence of a protein determines the sequence and order of amino acids in a particular polypeptide chain.
Proteins are composed of amino acids linked together in a chain via peptide bonds. A specific sequence of amino acids is determined by the nucleotide sequence of a cell’s genetic code that codes for polypeptide synthesis.
They perform various vital functions such as enzyme activity, cellular transport, and structural support. They also have various roles as regulators, signaling molecules, and transport agents in the human body.
Proteins are commonly found within biological membranes and can also be secreted by cells into the bloodstream.
Also known as hydrocarbons, these are naturally occurring substances that contain carbon. They all consist of atoms bonded together in a particular pattern (the most common being CxHy).
Most organic compounds contain hydrogen atoms, and therefore can be classified as organic when they meet the criteria of containing both hydrogen and carbon.
Hydrocarbons are widely distributed in nature and are found in both plants and animals. Some examples of organic compounds include cholesterol, lactic acid, methane, and ethane.
These are the building blocks of the genetic code. They consist of a chain of nucleotides that encodes a specific sequence in which the DNA or RNA polymerase synthesizes new nucleic acid strands.
Scientists often refer to these as polynucleotides because they are polymers (or long chains) made up of multiple nucleotide units.
These proteins catalyze chemical reactions inside living cells without being used up or altered in the process. They are highly specific; each enzyme can only catalyze a single reaction, and each reaction it catalyzes is reversible.
Enzymes also play a vital role in metabolism by helping to speed up the rate of biochemical reactions inside cells.
Examples of enzymes include:
- Lactase. It catalyzes the hydrolysis of lactose into glucose, galactose.
- Amylase. It metabolizes polysaccharides into sugars.
Atoms are the building blocks of all matter. They consist of a dense nucleus surrounded by electrons.
The number of protons in an atom defines its chemical properties; for example, atoms with fewer protons are more acidic than those with more protons.
Examples of ordinary atoms are carbon (C), hydrogen (H), and oxygen (O).
These are atoms or molecules with an electrical charge. They are formed when cations or anions interact with other ions.
Cations consist of positively charged ions, while anions are negatively charged. There is a vast range of ions found in nature, such as calcium (Ca2+), sodium (Na+), and chloride (Cl-).
Bonds are formed when electrons transfer from one atom to another. The energy released by this process is used to create new chemical bonds. It can also be released as heat and light.
Examples of bonds are:
- Covalent bonds occur when two atoms share a pair of electrons. These are the most common types of bonds.
- Ionic bonds form when two oppositely charged atoms form a bond.
- Hydrogen bonds occur when two oppositely charged ions form a weak bond.
They refer to individual molecules of nucleic acid. Each nucleotide contains a sugar molecule called ribose or deoxyribose, three phosphate groups and a nitrogen-containing base.
Examples of these include cytosine (C), guanine (G), thymine (T), and adenine (A). Nucleotides are joined together by bonds called phosphodiester bonds to form nucleic acids such as DNA and RNA.
ATP is an energy-containing molecule found in the cells of all living organisms. It plays a vital role in metabolic processes, transferring energy from one location to another inside a cell against a concentration gradient.
ATP consists of an adenine or ribose molecule with three phosphates (Pi) molecules attached. The breakdown of this molecule is responsible for releasing stored energy for cells to use.
Molecular Biology is a field of biology and medicine that seeks to understand the function and structure of biological systems at a molecular level. This knowledge is essential for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases.
It can involve studying individual molecules or larger assemblies such as chromosomes, cells, and tissues.
Molecular biologists are involved in research and development related to human health and well-being, including medicine, pharmaceuticals, and food production.
These are the fundamental units in chemistry. The word molecule is derived from the French word mole. A mole is the amount of a substance that contains as many atoms or molecules as in 12 grams of carbon-12.
The smallest molecule found in nature is the hydrogen molecule (H2), which consists of two atoms bound together via a covalent bond formed between their nuclei.
You can check our exclusive guide to learn more on macromolecules.
These are living things. There is a vast range of organisms found in nature, and all belong to one of five kingdoms: Monera, Protista, Fungi, Plantae, or Animalia. For example, animals belong to the Kingdom Animalia, and fungi belong to the Kingdom Fungi.
Their taxonomic classification can also classify organisms. A species can belong to either a genus or a family, which can belong to a higher classification level such as order, class, or species.
A chemical structure is a diagram that consists of symbols representing atoms arranged to show the chemical bonds between them.
Each atom within this structure is represented by its chemical symbol, usually one or two capital letters.
The arrangement of these symbols shows how the atoms are joined together in a molecule. This type of diagram is known as a structural formula.
It is an inorganic chemical group composed of a phosphorus atom bonded to four oxygen atoms.
Phosphoric acid (H3PO4) is a weak acid but can be used in industrial processes to extract and purify minerals containing phosphate.
Examples of these include phosphates and phytic acid. Phosphates are needed for all forms of life, as they contain phosphorus which is an essential nutrient.
A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without being consumed by it. It may, however, be used up during the reaction.
A catalyst increases the rate of a chemical reaction without itself consumed. Catalysts can be pure substances or even non-living species of a molecule called an enzyme.
Biochemical processes are a sequence of chemical reactions that occur in living organisms.
These processes are essential to the maintenance of life. They include growth, cell division, respiration, photosynthesis, and the excretion of waste products.
These are reactions in which the reactants are all dissolved in a liquid, usually water. In aerobic reactions, oxygen can be used as a terminal electron acceptor.
They are reversible reactions with carbon dioxide and water as products; use molecular oxygen (O 2 ) as a final electron acceptor.
Carbohydrates are organic compounds built from the elements carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.
Carbs are made up of one or more sugar molecules connected. They can be classified into three groups depending on their structure:
- Simple carbs are monosaccharides (containing only one sugar unit) or two different simple sugars chemically bonded together. They include glucose, fructose, and galactose (You can check our exclusive guide on monomers to learn more about these monosaccharides).
- Disaccharides contain two different simple sugars chemically bonded together, including sucrose (table sugar), lactose, and maltose.
- Polysaccharides are carbohydrates made from long chains of monosaccharide units. Examples of polysaccharides include starch, glycogen, and cellulose.
These are reactions in which the reactants are all dissolved in a liquid, usually water. In anaerobic reactions, only one electron acceptor is used. Carbon dioxide and water are released as products.
Sometimes, nitrogen gas or sulfide ions may also be the final electron acceptors. They can occur under aerobic conditions, but their energy yield per substance consumed is typically lower than aerobic reactions.
Hydrolysis is the chemical decomposition of a chemical compound by the action of water. It is the reaction of a molecule or ion with water to produce hydroxide ions and another compound.
Hydrolysis often involves the cleavage of bonds along with specific reactive sites in the substrate.
Ionization energy refers to the amount of energy needed to remove an electron from the remainder of a covalent bond. It can be represented in kilojoules per mole (kJ/mol).
It refers to the metabolic decay of sugar. Glycolysis is a set of biochemical reactions that breaks down glucose into pyruvate, releasing energy in the process. In animals, glycolysis occurs in the cytosol; in plants, algae, and most bacteria, it occurs within the cell’s mitochondria.
Metabolism is the set of reactions that take place inside a living organism to keep it alive. It involves using and conserving energy and macromolecules such as carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Biosynthesis of other secondary metabolites is also a facet of metabolism.
A membrane is a semi-permeable lipid bilayer that encloses all cells in a living organism. It separates the inside of the cell from its external environment.
A cell membrane’s functions are: Controlling what enters and exits the cell and maintaining the difference between the internal environment and surroundings. It also separates the organelles inside the cell.
You may check out our guide on the fluid mosaic model to visualize the cell membrane better.
It is the contractile tissue that generates force and causes movement. There are three types of muscles: skeletal muscle, smooth muscle, and cardiac muscle.
Genetics is the study of how characteristics are inherited. A gene is a section of eukaryotic DNA that codes for a particular characteristic.
These sequences occur within the chromosomes found in each cell of an organism. Genetic characteristics are passed to offspring at conception. They consist of a long chain of nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA.
Every living organism relies on genes to be able to grow and reproduce. Genes also code for proteins, which are used to form the structures and carry out the functions of cells.
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Being the study of living organisms, Biochemistry is a complex subject. Biochemists are interested in how chemical reactions cause changes to cells and how these changes affect a cell’s function.
The terms used in Biochemistry can be challenging for people not trained as chemists or biologists to understand.
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