The study of chemistry within the scope of biology: the compounds that occur and the reactions involving them in living organisms.

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25k views

Why is uracil used in RNA rather than thymine?

What is the advantage gained by the substitution of thymine with uracil? I have read previously that it is due to thymine being "better protected" and therefore more suited to the storage role of ...
44
votes
4answers
5k views

Why 22 amino acids instead of 64?

This question got me thinking about amino acids and the ambiguity in the genetic code. With 4 nucleotides in RNA and 3 per codon, there are 64 codons. However, these 64 codons only code for 22 ...
33
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5answers
1k views

Human perception of time depending on age

From what I can tell and what thus far all people with whom I discussed this subject confirmed is that time appears to "accelerate" as we age. Digging a little, most explanations I found basically ...
32
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4answers
1k views

Can scientists create totally synthetic life?

This particular question has been of a great deal of interest to me, especially since it dives at the heart of abiogenesis.
32
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4answers
15k views

Death because of distilled water consumption

One of my friends said that I would die if I drank distilled water (we were using it in a chemistry experiment) I gave it a go and surprisingly did not die. I did a bit of Googling and found this ...
22
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4answers
4k views

What does the human body use oxygen for besides the final electron acceptor in the electron transport chain?

My biology teachers never explained why animals need to breathe oxygen, just that we organisms die if we don't get oxygen for too long. Maybe one of them happened to mention that its used to make ATP. ...
20
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1answer
484 views

How, on a physical level, does ATP confer energy?

When ATP is used as the energy currency to make, say, reaction X + Y → Z happen, is what happens on a physical level down at the molecular scale that during the reaction ATP + H2O → ADP + Pi ...
19
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1answer
265 views

Evolutionary origin and exogenous cues of ~28 day infradian rhythm?

The most obvious example of an approximately monthly biological cycle is the human menstrual cycle. My questions are the following: Is it known when and where this cycle or one like it arose? What ...
18
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3answers
770 views

How is RNAse contamination in RNA based experiments prevented?

Does anyone have any suggestions to prevent RNAse contamination when working with RNA? I tend to have issues with degradation regardless of whether I use DEPC treated / RNAse free water and filtered ...
17
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3answers
821 views

Why are there no organisms with metal body parts, like weapons, bones, and armour? (Or are there?)

Reading this question, Why are there no wheeled animals?, I wondered why no organisms seem to make use of the tensile and other strengths of metal, as we do in metal tools and constructions. I am ...
17
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2answers
3k views

What is the mechanism behind “acquired” alcohol tolerance?

I can understand natural variation in alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) in a population leading to variation in rate of inebriation (after controlling for other variables -- e.g., mass, food consumption, ...
17
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4answers
2k views

Why are there exactly four nucleobases in DNA?

Does someone know why DNA is composed of four nucleobases? In particular, is there an explanation for the number? Why four and not two, or eight?
17
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3answers
230 views

How crowded is the bacterial cell?

I was wondering what is the protein concentration in an E. coli cell. When studying enzyme kinetics and activity in vitro, I would argue that the substrate and enzyme concentrations resemble those in ...
16
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1answer
659 views

ATP cost for gene expression

How would you estimate the number of ATPs required to transcribe, export and translate a single eukariotic protein?
15
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1answer
586 views

Can siRNA induce DNA methylation in mammalian cells?

Some years ago Hiroaki Kawasaki and Kazunari Taira published an article called "Induction of DNA methylation and gene silencing by short interfering RNAs in human cells" in Nature: In plants, ...
15
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2answers
3k views

Why is glucose our primary source of energy?

Is there any evolutionary reason for glucose being the "main" molecule used as a source of energy, beginning with glycolysis and subsequently cellular respiration (after being converted to two ...
13
votes
3answers
1k views

What implications has the missing 2'-OH on the capability of DNA to form 3D structures?

The chemical difference between RNA and DNA is the missing 2'-hydroxyl group in the nucleotides that build DNA. The major effect of that change that I know of is the higher stability of DNA compared ...
13
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1answer
2k views

How does a plant grow before photosynthesis is possible?

During photosynthesis, a plant translates CO2, water and light into O2. I assume the carbon C is further used for the growing process. I wonder how the plant grows before the time where photosynthesis ...
13
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2answers
807 views

Is the EC50 of an activating protein for an enzyme a good indicator for the binding affinity Kd?

We work with a membrane protein system where measuring the affinity between the enzyme and the upstream activating protein has been difficult, and when measured in detergent solution, it is almost 100 ...
13
votes
1answer
8k views

What effect has changing pH and salt concentration on protein complexes?

I'm struggling to find peer reviewed literature that explains the effect of changing the pH and the salt concentration on protein/protein complexes in solution. What effect does the pH and the salt ...
13
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1answer
468 views

How fast will cells lyse under hypotonic conditions?

Routinely, lysis of cells with hypotonic solutions is carried out along with some physical (douncing) or enzymatic (lysozyme) method to break open the cells. If one were not to do any of these and ...
12
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3answers
26k views

What is a coupled reaction and why do cells couple reactions?

I was wondering what exactly a coupled reaction is and why cells couple them. I read the wikipedia article as well as several others, such as life.illinois.edu but I still don't get it. Could ...
12
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2answers
362 views

Are there any plants that fix their own nitrogen?

I know that most nitrogen is fixed through industrial processes and bacterial symbiotic relationships. However, are there any plants that can fix their own atmospheric nitrogen?
12
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1answer
1k views

How much energy does human body fat contain?

I have been reading the Wikipedia article about food energy, but as I'm not a biologist, I don't really understand it properly, so I came here to ask you guys. My question is: If a human body needs X ...
11
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3answers
1k views

Where does the 'C' in exhaled CO2 mostly come from?

When a human being exhales $CO_2$, what is, by the numbers, the main source of carbon atoms exiting the body in this way? I mean what class of cells, or which tissues are the biggest on a pie chart of ...
11
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2answers
29k views

NADH vs. NADPH: Where is each one used and why that instead of the other?

I know NADH is used in cellular respiration and NADPH is used in photosynthesis. What difference does the phosphate group make that the same one isn't or can't be used for both? Is there a greater ...
11
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3answers
1k views

What happens to dextrorotatory amino acids in humans?

As indicated by this question, most of the amino acids in the human body have the L-chirality. As enzymes also have handedness, what happens to the D-amino acids that end up within the human body? Are ...
11
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1answer
1k views

Why does hair turn grey or white, and why does it happen later for some?

The question is pretty simple: what is happening molecularly when hair turns grey or white? I would imagine that it is due to the lack of a particular compound. I'm also interested in why some ...
11
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1answer
634 views

What limits the maximum spacing of Nodes of Ranvier and which organisms tend to have the widest gaps?

Assuming that a longer distance between gaps in the myelin sheath is beneficial for an organism due to the increased propagation speed, what is the limiting factor in determining the maximum spacing ...
11
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1answer
273 views

What is the mechanism that directs myosin walking?

Myosin, dynein and kinase all "walk" towards specific ends of the microtubule or actin filament they are on. I'm most familiar with the walking mechanism for myosin, where ATP fuels conformal changes ...
11
votes
1answer
504 views

Why do we feel tired if we sleep excessively?

When we eat, finally we feel full. I know which mechanism causes the sensation of being full. But when we sleep excessively we often still want more sleep. Why does this happen? Is there a mechanism ...
11
votes
2answers
347 views

What are the limitations to current nucleotide sequencing technologies?

Using the Illumina platform, it is cheap and (relatively) easy to sequence huge amounts of DNA or RNA. There are various other platforms out there (Roche/454, SOLiD, PacBio, Ion Torrent) each with ...
11
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1answer
94 views

Does a theory exist for the formation of thylakoid structure?

I'm interested in how the structure of the thylakoid forms into its characteristic highly rugose stacks of grana. What causes the thylakoid to invaginate and self-associate, albeit with what appear to ...
11
votes
1answer
127 views

How would one calculate the availability of nucleotides to an enzyme?

How would one calculate the availability of nucleotides to an enzyme like a polymerase ? I imagine an answer in units like nucleotides per second per enzyme, but I'm also imagining an answer that is ...
10
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2answers
492 views

Could hydrogen replace oxygen in cellular respiration?

I was wondering what oxygen actually does in the body. I have seen a few answers to other questions that involve the electron chain and I am really not sure what that is. So I was wondering what ...
10
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1answer
347 views

How would I explain different properties of the same protein in different species?

I recently finished an experiment where I analyzed the rate of ATP hydrolysis of Heat shock protein 104 in three species of fungi. They have shown to all have different rates of ATPase activity. How ...
10
votes
3answers
731 views

Why do people say that trans fatty acids are bad for your health?

I've heard from several sources that trans FAs are bad for you and their consumption will lead to cardiac problems, and that they are indigestible. But I also learned from biochemistry that they are ...
10
votes
1answer
524 views

How do I get the current “camera position” in PyMol so I can reuse it in scripts?

I have a few protein models I want to take pictures of with various ligands bound. It would be nice if I could do it from the same "position", but the only way I can figure out to repeat the same ...
10
votes
1answer
329 views

What is the functional and structural distinction between core (H2A, H2B, H3,H4) and linker(H1/H5) histones?

Many explanations of histone biochemistry isn't quite elucidating for the undergraduate student. How does histone structure (dimers, octomers) relate to their specific functions as core or linker ...
10
votes
1answer
104 views

When running a gel, what could cause a standard to run “faster” than usual?

We are running a gel on the products of a restriction digest to determine the size of an insert. We know the vector backbone size should be ~2.9kb; however, the standard appears to be running too ...
10
votes
2answers
397 views

Why does cyanide inhibit CuZnSOD, but not MnSOD or FeSOD?

Different types of superoxide dismutase (SOD) contain different metal ions (Zn, Cu, Mn, Ni, or Fe), all of which allow them to catalyze one reaction, dismutation of superoxide anion, O2−. Cyanide can ...
10
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2answers
246 views

Which sequence characteristics influence the transcription efficiency of T7 polymerase?

The T7 polymerase doesn't transcribe all sequences equally well, the transciption efficiency can vary widely for different sequences. One well known requirement of the T7 polymerase is that the ...
9
votes
3answers
189 views

Does GFAJ-1 use Adenosine triarsenate as its energy currency?

Regarding the bacteria found in Mono Lake, CA that scientists believe uses or can use arsenic in its DNA backbone where life as we know it uses phosphorus (according to their experiments depriving the ...
9
votes
4answers
204 views

How can I avoid digesting protein-bound DNA?

I'm interested in sequencing and analyzing the bound DNA, and minimizing the amount of unbound DNA that gets sequenced through digestion. When digesting protein-bound DNA, is all of the unbound DNA ...
9
votes
1answer
292 views

Does DNA react in all of the ways most other acids do?

As I understand it from my basic chemistry, there are some fundamental reactions that exist between any acid and other substances for example acid-base reactions that form a salt, and the existence of ...
9
votes
2answers
310 views

Why does Hunger lead to the aggressive behavior?

I have observed that frequently when people are hungry; they tend to get angry more easily on pointless issues. Does this mean that our fight or flight response is more active when a person is hungry? ...
9
votes
1answer
251 views

What are the olfactory chemicals in whiteboard/permanent markers and what do they bind to in the nose, lungs, and brain?

What are the olfactory chemicals in whiteboard/permanent markers and what do they bind to in the nose, lungs, and brain?
9
votes
1answer
2k views

Why is GTP gamma S non hydrolyzable?

GTP gamma S is routinely used in studies of G proteins to stably activate the G protein. Comparing the structures of GTP gamma S and GTP, the Sulphur atom replaces the Oxygen attached to the leaving ...
9
votes
2answers
128 views

What role does a protein's size have on protein-protein interactions?

Protein-protein interactions are when two or more proteins bind together, possibly for some important biological function. Recently, I'm starting to look more into proteins, and in particular, ...
9
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2answers
4k views

Why is PEG important for efficient yeast transformation?

One way to do an yeast transformation is by using lithium acetate, a single-stranded carrier DNA, and PEG (1). I was wondering why is the polyethylene glycol important for the efficient ...