29.10 • Some Conclusions about Biological Chemistry
As promised in the chapter introduction, the past few sections have been a fast-paced tour of a large number of reactions. Following it all undoubtedly required a lot of work and a lot of page-turning to look at earlier sections.
After examining the various metabolic pathways, perhaps the main conclusion about biological chemistry is the remarkable similarity between the mechanisms of biological reactions and the mechanisms of laboratory reactions. If you were to look at the steps of vitamin B12 biosynthesis, you would see the same kinds of reactions we’ve been seeing throughout the text—nucleophilic substitutions, eliminations, aldol reactions, nucleophilic acyl substitutions, and so forth. There are, of course, some complexities, but the fundamental mechanisms of organic chemistry remain the same, whether in the laboratory with smaller molecules or in organisms with larger molecules.
So what is there to be learned from studying metabolism? One good answer is given in the following Chemistry Matters, which relates the story of how knowledge of a biosynthetic pathway led to the design of new drugs that have saved millions of lives.