Structural Biochemistry/Organic Chemistry/Techniques in Organic Chemistry
Techniques in organic chemistry applied to biology can produce many accommodations such as medicines that are useful to everyone. Methods of separating, isolating, purifying, and identifying unknown compounds as well as known compounds in unknown mixtures are helpful to the pharmaceutical industry. By isolating and purifying an unknown compound and then performing other analyses such as NMR or electron microscopy, the structure of the compound can be identified and with further analyses of the structure, its biological implications and effects can be understood using chemistry. Ever since the extraction of morphine from opium, many natural products have been isolated and their structures determined. Once the structure was determined, chemists were able to devise synthetic methods to synthesis these compounds, creating modern pharmaceutical chemistry. One example of this is Caffeine. By isolating, purifying, and identifying its structure, scientists have been able to understand how the consumption of caffeine results in wakefulness and alertness. These biological effects are the results of its structural similarity to adenosine and cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). This similarity allows caffeine to bind to the active site of receptors or enzymes that normally react with adenosine and its derivatives. Adenosine is important in the regulation of brain activity as build up of adenosine levels in the brain during the day causes the concentration to increase and if it is high enough, adenosine binds to brain receptors that activates mechanisms causing drowsiness and sleep. When caffeine binds to the adenosine receptors, it prevents the binding of adenosine and therefore delays sleepiness and increases alertness. Also, Caffeine inhibits the enzyme cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase (cAMP-PDE) that converts cAMP to noncyclic monophospate. cAMP is a secondary messenger responsible for increasing blood pressure and delivering more oxygen to the brain. When caffeine binds to cAMP-PDE, it stops the breakdown of cAMP and consequently prolongs the excitation effects. In conclusion, the use of organic chemistry techniques to isolate, purify, identify, and understand compound structures can lead to a chemical understanding of the biological phenomenon that result for chemical interactions which forms the basis for biochemistry.
Mohrig, Jerry R. Techniques in Organic Chemistry. 2006, W.H. Freeman and Company
Organic Chemistry Lab, Chemistry 143A