The Biochemistry of Cells

  • Ronald W. Shonkwiler
  • James Herod
Part of the Undergraduate Texts in Mathematics book series (UTM)


The purpose of this chapter is to present the structure of some of the molecules that make up a cell and to show how they are constructed under the supervision of hereditary elements of the cell. This will lead the way to a mathematical description of biological catalysis at the end of this chapter and is a necessary prelude to the discussion of the human immunodeficiency virus in Chapter 10. As a result, this chapter contains a lot of biological information. We will see that biological molecules can be created outside of a cellular environment, but only very inefficiently. Inside a cell, however, the information for biomolecules is encoded in the genetic material called nucleic acid. Thus we will establish a direct relationship between the chemicals that constitute a cell and the cell’s hereditary information. The topical material of this chapter is organized along the lines of small to large. We begin by presenting a description of the atoms found in cells and then show how they are assembled into small organic molecules. Some of these small molecules can then be polymerized into large biochemical molecules, the biggest of which have molecular weights on the order of billions. These assembly processes are mediated by certain macromolecules which are themselves molecular polymers and whose own assembly has been mediated by similar molecular polymers. Thus we develop a key process in biology—self-replication.


Free Energy Lone Pair Living System Double Helix Globular Protein 
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References and Suggested Further Reading

  1. [1]
    Thermodynamics: H. J. Morowitz, Energy Flow in Biology, Academic Press, New York, 1968.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    Biochemical structure: L. Stryer, Biochemistry, 2nd ed., W. H. Freeman, 1981.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    Biochemical structure and thermodynamics: E. K. Yeargers, Basic Biophysics for Biology, CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 1992.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Thermodynamics and enzyme function: P. W. Atkins, Physical Chemistry, W. H. Freeman, 3rd ed., New York, 1986.Google Scholar
  5. [5]
    Chemical genetics. D. T. Suzuki, A. J. F. Griffiths, J. H. Miller, and R. C. Lewontin, An Introduction to Genetic Analysis, W. H. Freeman, 3rd ed., New York, 1986.Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    Chemical genetics: J. D. Watson, N. W. Hopkins, J. W. Roberts, J. A. Steitz, and A. M. Weiner, Molecular Biology of the Gene, 4th ed., Benjamin/Cummings, Menlo Park, CA, 1987.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of MathematicsGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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