how to study for biochemistry reddit

Last Updated on August 30, 2023

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How To Study For Biochemistry Reddit

what to expect in biochemistry class

What is biochemistry?

Biochemistry is the branch of science that explores the chemical processes within and related to living organisms. It is a laboratory based science that brings together biology and chemistry. By using chemical knowledge and techniques, biochemists can understand and solve biological problems.

Biochemistry focuses on processes happening at a molecular level. It focuses on what’s happening inside our cells, studying components like proteins, lipids and organelles. It also looks at how cells communicate with each other, for example during growth or fighting illness. Biochemists need to understand how the structure of a molecule relates to its function, allowing them to predict how molecules will interact.

Biochemistry covers a range of scientific disciplines, including genetics, microbiology, forensics, plant science and medicine. Because of its breadth, biochemistry is very important and advances in this field of science over the past 100 years have been staggering. It’s a very exciting time to be part of this fascinating area of study.

What do biochemists do?
  • Provide new ideas and experiments to understand how life works
  • Support our understanding of health and disease
  • Contribute innovative information to the technology revolution
  • Work alongside chemists, physicists, healthcare professionals, policy makers, engineers and many more professionals

To find out more about careers in biochemistry read our booklets Biochemistry: the careers guide and Next Steps.


Biochemists work in many places, including:
  • Hospitals
  • Universities
  • Agriculture
  • Food institutes
  • Education
  • Cosmetics
  • Forensic crime research
  • Drug discovery and development

Biochemists have many transferable skills, including:
  • Analytical
  • Communication
  • Research
  • Problem solving
  • Numerical
  • Written
  • Observational
  • Planning

The outlook is good

The life science community is a fast-paced, interactive network with global career opportunities at all levels. The Government recognizes the potential that developments in biochemistry and the life sciences have for contributing to national prosperity and for improving the quality of life of the population. Funding for research in these areas has been increasing dramatically in most countries, and the biotechnology industry is expanding rapidly.

The Biochemical Society aims to inspire and engage people in the molecular biosciences. We offer study and careers advice to school students, higher education students and teachers as well as carrying out public engagement events. 

pathways in biochemistry

A general overview of the major metabolic pathways
Prof. Doutor Pedro Silva

Assistant Professor, Universidade Fernando Pessoa

Metabolism is the set of chemical rections that occur in a cell, which enable it to keep living, growing and dividing. Metabolic processes are usually classified as:

catabolism – obtaining energy and reducing power from nutrients.
anabolism – production of new cell components, usually through processes that require energy and reducing power obtained from nutrient catabolism.
There is a very large number of metabolic pathways. In humans, the most important metabolic pathways are:

glycolysis – glucose oxidation in order to obtain ATP
citric acid cycle (Krebs’ cycle) – acetyl-CoA oxidation in order to obtain GTP and valuable intermediates.
oxidative phosphorylation – disposal of the electrons released by glycolysis and citric acid cycle. Much of the energy released in this process can be stored as ATP.
pentose phosphate pathway – synthesis of pentoses and release of the reducing power needed for anabolic reactions.
urea cycle – disposal of NH4+ in less toxic forms
fatty acid β-oxidation – fatty acids breakdown into acetyl-CoA, to be used by the Krebs’ cycle.
gluconeogenesis – glucose synthesis from smaller percursors, to be used by the brain.
Click on the picture to get information on each pathway

Metabolic chart: Glycolysis, Gluconeogenesis, Krebs cycle, urea cycle, fatty acids, glycogen, pentoses-phosphate
Metabolic pathways interact in a complex way in order to allow an adequate regulation. This interaction includes the enzymatic control of each pathway, each organ’s metabolic profile and hormone control.

Enzymatic control of metabolic pathways
Regulation of glycolysis
Metabolic flow through glycolysis can be regulated at three key points:

hexokinase: is inhibited by glucose-6-P (product inhibition)
phosphofructokinase: is inhibited by ATP and citrate (which signals the abundance of citric acid cycle intermediates). It is also inhibited by H+, which becomes important under anaerobiosis (lactic fermentation produces lactic acid, resulting on a lowering of the pH ). Probably this mechanism prevents the cell from using all its ATP stock in the phosphofrutokinase reaction, which would prevent glucose activation by hexokinase. It is stimulated by its substrate (fructose-6-phosphate), AMP and ADP (which signal the lack of available energy), etc.
pyruvate kinase: inhibited by ATP, alanine, free fatty acids and acetyl-CoA. Activated by fructose-1,6-bisphosphate and AMP
Regulation of gluconeogenesis
Flow is regulated in the gluconeogenesis-specific reactions. Pyruvate carboxilase is activated by acetyl-CoA, which signals the abundance of citric acid cycle intermediates, i.e., a decreased need of glucose.

Regulation of the citric acid cycle
The citric acid cycle is regulated mostly by substrate availability, product inhibition and by some cycle intermediates.

pyruvate dehydrogenase: is inhibited by its products, acetyl-CoA and NADH
citrate synthase: is inhibited by its product, citrate. It is also inhibited by NADH and succinyl-CoA (which signal the abundance of citric acid cycle intermediates).
isocitrate dehydrogenase and a-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase: like citrate synthase, these are inhibited by NADH and succinyl-CoA. Isocitrate dehydrogenase is also inhibited by ATP and stimulated by ADP. All aforementioned dehydrogenases are stimulated by Ca2+. This makes sense in the muscle, since Ca2+ release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum triggers muscle contraction, which requires a lot of energy. This way, the same “second messenger” activates an energy-demanding task and the means to produce that energy.
Regulation of the urea cycle
Carbamoyl-phosphate sinthetase is stimulated by N-acetylglutamine, which signals the presence of high amounts of nitrogen in the body.

Regulation of glycogen metabolism
Liver contains a hexokinase (hexokinase D or glucokinase)with low affinity for glucose which (unlike “regular” hexokinase) is not subject to product inhibition. Therefore, glucose is only phosphrylated in the liver when it is present in very high concentrations (i.e. after a meal). In this way, the liver will not compete with other tissues for glucose when this sugar is scarce, but will accumulate high levels of glucose for glycogen synthesis right after a meal.

Regulation of fatty acids metabolism
Acyl-CoA movement into the mitochondrion is a crucial factor in regulation. Malonyl-CoA (which is present in the cytoplasm in high amounts when metabolic fuels are abundant) inhibits carnitine acyltransferase, thereby preventing acyl-CoA from entering the mitochondrion. Furthermore, 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase is inhibited by NADH and thiolase is inhibited by acetyl-CoA, so that fatty acids wil not be oxidized when there are plenty of energy-yielding substrates in the cell.

Regulation of the pentose phosphate pathway
Metabolic flow through the pentose phosphate pathway is controled by the activity of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, which is controlled by NADP+ availability.

Metabolic profiles of key tissues
Brain
Usually neurons use only glucose as energy source. Since the brain stores only a very small amount of glycogen, it needs a steady supply of glucose. During long fasts, it becomes able to oxidize ketone bodies.

Liver
The maintenance of a fairly steady concentration of glucose in the blood is one of the liver’s main functions. This is accomplished through gluconeogenesis and glycogen synthesis and degradation. It synthesizes ketone bodies when acetyl-CoA is plenty. It is also the site of urea synthesis.

Adipose tissue
It synthesizes fatty acids and stores them as triacylglycerols. Glucagon activates a hormone-sensitive lipase, which hydrolizes triacylglycerols yielding glycerol and fatty acids. These are then released into the bloodstream in lipoproteins.

Muscle
Muscles use glucose, fatty acids, ketone bodies and aminoacids as energy source. It also contains a reserve of creatine-phosphate, a compound with a high phosphate-transfer potential that is able to phosphorilate ADP to ATP, thereby producing energy without using glucose. The amount of creatine in the muscle is enough to sustain about 3-4 s of exertion. After this period, the muscle uses glycolysis, first anaerobically (since it is much faster than the citric acid cycle), and later (when the increased acidity slows phosphofrutokinase enough for the citric acid cycle to become non-rate-limiting) in aerobic conditions.

Kidney
It can perform gluconeogenesis and release glucose into the bloodstream. It is also responsible for the excretion of urea, electrolytes, etc. Metabolic acidosis may be increased by the action of the urea cycle, since urea synthesis (which takes place in the liver) uses HCO3-, thereby further lowering blood pH. Under these circunstances, nitrogen may be eliminated by the joint action of kidney and liver: excess nitrogen is first incorporated in glutamine by glutamine synthetase. Kidney glutaminase then cleaves glutamine in glutamate e NH3, which the kidney immediately excretes. This process allows nitrogen excretion without affecting blood bicarbonate levels.

Hormone control
Hormone control is mainly effected through the action of two hormones synthesized by the pancreas: insulin and glucagon. Insulin is released by the pancreas when blood glucose levels are high, i.e., after a meal. Insulin stimulates glucose uptake by the muscle, glycogen synthesis, and triacylglyceride synthesis by the adipose tissue. It inhibits gluconeogenesis and glycogen degradation. Glucagon is released by pancreas when blood glucose levels drop too much. Its effects are opposite those of insulin: in liver, glucagon stimulates glycogen degradation and the absorption of gluconeogenic aminoacids. It inhibits glycogen synthesis and promotes the release of fatty acids by adipose tissue.

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