Structural Biochemistry/Eat your Fruits and Veggies! How Vitamin C combats scurvy

Scurvy is a disease that causes degeneration of connective tissue. It is caused if there is a deficient amount of Vitamin C found in the body. Scurvy if left untreated can cause small hemorrhages, tooth loss, poor wound healing, the reopening of old wounds, bone pain and degeneration and heart failure. To regain the deficient vitamin C level one must eat fruits and vegetables.

How consuming vitamin C combats Scurvy

Collagen is in the repeated tripeptide unit Gly-X-Y where X and Y are generally Pro or 4-Hyp. It is necessary that the Pro residue in the Y position to be in the Carbon-gamma exo conformation and requires the Pro residue in the X position to have the Carbon-gamma endo conformation. The 4-Hyp if introduced can destabilize the helix. When vitamin C is absent t leads to collagen instability because the molecule can not hydroxylate the Pro at the Y position. A special enzyme is required to hydroxylate the Pro residue in procollagen, the enzyme is called prolyl 4-hydroxylase. Prolyl 4-hydroxylase is a alpha2Beta2 tetramer in all vertebrate. The alpha subunit was found to be the site of proline-hydroxylating activity. Vitamin C is essential in hydroxylating the proline to stabilize the collagen. Vitamin C is found in high abundance in fruits and veggies, particularly in lemons.


1. Nelson, David L., Michael M. Cox, and Albert L. Lehninger. "Why Sailors, Exploeres, and College Students Should Eat Their Fresh Fruits and Vegetables." Lehninger: Principles of Biochemistry. New York: W. H. Freeman and, 2005. N. pag. Print.