Micro Life Zone
Asked by onedirection to Arti on 17 May 2012.
Keywords: cytochromes, enzymes
Hi Onedirection (I take it you are a fan of the band?), 🙂
Enzymes are involved in every single biological process, so they are the extremely important for life.
Cytochromes P450 are a really large family of enzymes (there are thousands known at the moment, and the number is growing all the time), and they are also involved in several of these biological processes. P450s (that’s what we call them for short) are found in all forms of life – so far the only things we know for sure that don’t have any P450s are the bacteria Eschericia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella typhimurium. Plants usually have the most P450s, and bacteria and fungi have the least. Animals are usually somewhere in the middle (humans have 57 P450s; the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has about 86). One reason I find these enzymes so interesting is that they can carry out some pretty cool chemical reactions in biological systems that we can’t even carry out (or can’t carry out very easily) in the lab! Another reason is that there are so many of them and they can carry out so many different kinds of reactions on so many different substrates (the chemicals that they carry out the reactions on). Another reason is that they are involved in everything!
Some examples of things they are involved in are the production of things like hormones, fatty acids, vitamins, pheromones, and chemicals that plants use to defend themselves from predators (one reason that plants generally have the most P450s is that chemicals are pretty much the only way they can defend themselves, because they can’t move). P450s that are part of processes like this usually have specific jobs that they do in the biological pathway, so they are very selective and only carry out certain reactions on particular parts of certain types of chemical.
Some P450s are involved in processes such as metabolising ‘xenobiotics’ (which means ‘foreign substances’) so that our bodies can get rid of them in our urine. These ones are usually not very selective and they will work on lots of different substrates. I’ve written more about P450s in my profile, and in some of my other answers, so please check these out as well (I can’t quite find all the links, but I did answer the questions “What are cytochromes?” and “What are enzymes?” as well):
how many chemicle reactions exist that involve cytochromes P450?
There is HEAPS more to learn about P450s. They way that they actually activate molecular oxygen and then use that to oxidise substrates is a very big area of research. Another area is finding out the natural functions of some of the P450s, particularly ones that are somewhat unusual. Some other areas involve investigating what they do in the biological pathways that they are part of; trying to engineer new enzymes from several related P450s (this is called ‘DNA shuffling” or “molecular breeding”) so that you have ones that are more efficient at particular reactions/processes than the natural that they came from (their parent enzymes); or investigating some P450s that are involved in the progression of come diseases. (There are lots more!)
Scientists working in many different fields contribute to what we know about P450s – “P450 science” is kind of a field by itself!
In a nutshell, I like them and am interested in studying them is because there is so much to learn about them! They are everywhere and are involved in so many aspects of life, so anything that you learn about particular P450s does contribute to the growing body of P450 and enzyme knowledge and has the potential to help out society in some way!
I find them fascinating!
By BRIDGE8 under license from Mangorolla CIC 2023