Sunday, November 27, 2011

Break, Games, and Biochemistry

This Thanksgiving break was SO relaxing. Nicole and I spent a lot of time relaxing with family, which was desperately needed. I learned a new game from my brother-in-law Jd (yes, I have my own secret way of naming people on here who I'm not sure how they would feel about me using their name) called Dominion. It is kind of like a mixture of Risk, Monopoly, and Magic the Gathering - all cards (no board) but the object of the game is to own all the property. INCREDIBLY fun, and definitely worth a look if you're trying to find a good game for someone this Christmas. I liked it so much, I immediately put it right at the top of my Christmas list... And the following day my mom may or may not have gotten it for me... And Nicole and I may or may not have played it with my mom and stepdad that night... Yeah, it's that good. The deal was that I could get it and we could play it that night, then I could decide whether or not to go without it until Christmas, unwrapping it on Christmas day. I actually decided to go without; I love opening presents, and I can't wait to essentially get that game as a gift a SECOND TIME. Awesome, it will be.

I also spent a ton of time over the weekend going back through glycolysis, gluconeogenesis, and metabolic regulation. That last one gave me a bit of trouble in lecture last week, but I've got it figured out now. I also just finished reading through tomorrow's lecture on the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-CoA and the Citric Acid Cycle (CAC), and I'm feeling pretty pumped. Yes, it is tremendously nerdy to describe oneself as "pumped" about pyruvate conversion and the CAC. I'm ok with this. Note: I am on the cusp of another detailed review/explanation of something awesome that I am learning, so now is the time when anyone not interested in Biochemistry should zone out. We have already memorized the entire process of glycolysis, as shown here:
See at the bottom there? The product of glycolysis is pruvate, which is where we left off. Below is the reaction for converting pyruvate to acetyl-CoA in preparation for the CAC:
Seems simple, right? Well, you see that blue "pyruvate dehydrogenase complex" under the above reaction arrow? That's an enzyme composed of three protein subunits that act together to take a carbon dioxide molecule off of pyruvate, then smack on a CoA complex. Here's the AMAZING reaction mechanism for what happens at the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex - something without which we would be unable to function at the most basic of levels:
Now, CoA stands for Coenzyme A, and given that the below image is the actual structure of CoA, I'd say this is the most dramatic abbreviation I've seen so far.
Now that we've formed that useful little guy called acetyl CoA, we can actually start the CAC (remember, Citric Acid Cycle), given that it's the starting reagent:
Please note: every time you see a blue name on the inside of the reaction arrows, that is an enzyme. Grey boxes show the name of the process that is occurring at that step, the pink highlighting shows the atoms from the acetyl group (which originally came from glucose), and the orange shapes show the electron carrier molecules that will be used in the electron transport chain. That is what the next few days will be spent memorizing - all the enzymes, substrates, reaction mechanisms, and stoichiometric product ratios involved in this amazing process.

I just had a thought. You know how people play football for the fun of it, yet sometimes the training (and even in-game getting hit and such) process can be pretty painful? Even though they really do have fun with the strategy and skill involved in the game, there are unpleasant aspects too. I guess that is how I feel about this; it can be horribly tedious to memorize all of these tiny little details, but doing so is what let's me see how all the parts fit together later on and "play the game," if you will. Painful, but it prepares me, and when I get to the end, it feels good. Even though I know it is probably going to be pretty rough, I still get excited about the challenge, about the rewards, and about the fun that I can have with the right attitude. Tme to let the "fun" begin...

3 comments:

Nicole said...

I like the Chancellor :o)

Jared Benthem said...

Justin, I'm so glad that you liked playing the game so much. It is an honor to be mentioned on your blog. Thanks so much for joining me on my maiden voyage of Dominion. It was a pleasure.

Jared Benthem said...

I'm so glad that you liked playing the game so much. It is an honor to be mentioned on your blog. Thanks so much for joining me on my maiden voyage of Dominion. It was a pleasure.

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