Biochemistry books: Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry – Vol 1
Encyclopedia of Biological Chemistry – Vol 1
Biological Chemistry is defined as the chemistry of the compounds and processes that constitute livingorganisms. The ultimate goal, of course, is to understand and define biology at a mechanistic level. This was aptly stated in an historical treatise on the founding of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, where John Edsall quoted a statement in a letter from J. L. Loeb (in Berkeley), “The future of biology lies with those who attack its problems from a chemical point of view.” What was an emerging field in 1900 with its origins in physiology, nutrition and chemistry has broadened and expanded to include numerous other fields including mechanistic enzymology, molecular biology, structural biology, cell biology, genomics, proteomics, bioinformatics, metabolomics and others, thatwere not defined as discrete fields at that time. Modern biochemistry (biological chemistry) began with the accidental discovery by Eduard Buchner in 1897 that a cell-free yeast extract could carry out fermentation of glucose to alcohol and CO2 in the absence of intact cells. He named the dissolved substance responsible for this process zymase, the substance(s) we now refer to as enzymes. Importantly, Buchner recognized the significance of his discovery. This ended the dogma of the time, perpetuated by Pasteur, the concept of vitalism; i.e., that fermentation (and presumably other complex biological phenomena) required the action of intact cells. Thus, serendipity and a prepared mind ushered in a new era of discovery. Now it became possible to dissect complex physiological processes and to study them with preparations free of the constraints of intact cells. Once a metabolic pathway/process was established, it became possible to purify the enzymes, cofactors and substrates involved, to reconstitute the process with purified components and to characterize the components chemically. What followed was an information explosion in the field of biochemistry and progression through a series of trends, each “in vogue” in its time. The identification of the dietary essentials, the hunt for the vitamins/cofactors, the hormones, identification of metabolic pathways and the enzymes involved, oxidative phosphorylation, protein
synthesis, molecular biology—each developed as a primary focus. The need to associate chemistry with function came early and was evident in the naming of departments and journals. Over time names changed from Agricultural Chemistry to Physiological Chemistry to Biochemistry to Biological Chemistry. An example is the Department of Biochemistry at the University ofWisconsin, which began in 1883 as the Department of Agricultural Chemistry. Where are we headed? We have reached the point where the borders of these areas have become blurred. What constitutes cell biology, molecular biology/ genetics, developmental biology, physiology, immunology— ultimately reduces to chemistry. To understand these processes we must know what the molecules are and understand how they interact, i.e. the basic chemistry. That is what this encyclopedia is about. The breadth of content of this encyclopedia aims to cover major topics of modern biochemistry, each authored by an expert in the area. We feel that the coverage is broad and we have been inclusive in choice of topics. The encyclopedia is a reference work encompassing four volumes containing over 500 articles with more than 750 authors or coauthors. Each article/topic covers an important area of the field which reflects the point of view of the authors. Together the articles cover virtually every aspect of biology for which we have “mechanistic” information. For those who wish to probe more deeply into a topic, references to further readings are included at the end of each article. The editorial board that made decisions on coverage consists of seven members, each an expert representing a major area in the field of biochemistry. A dedicated effort was made to provide coverage that is as complete as possible. The content is presented at a level that we hope will be interpretable to interested individuals with some background
in chemistry and biology. It is intended for such individuals rather than specialists with extensive scientific
backgrounds in specific areas. It is aimed at the generalist as opposed to the specialist. Finally, we would like to single out Gail Rice and Dr. Noelle Gracy for their enormous contribution in putting this encyclopedia together. They, in fact, were a driving force that brought this major work to completion.