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Additional info for Biochemistry: A Short Course
What can account for the disparity between what is available and what organisms are made of? One reason that oxygen and hydrogen are so common is the ubiquity of water, or “the matrix of life,” as biochemist Albert Szent-Györgi called it. This tiny molecule—consisting of only three atoms—makes life on Earth possible. Indeed, current belief is that all life requires water, which is why so much effort has been made in recent decades to determine whether Mars had water in the past and whether it still does.
In the context of the cell, water is the most common medium for the thermal noise of Brownian motion. Water is the lubricant that facilitates the flow of energy and information transformations through Brownian motion. Enzymes find their substrates; fuels can be progressively modified to yield energy, and signal molecules can diffuse from their sites of origin to their sites of effect, all through Brownian motion. To be sure, the environment inside the cell is not as simple as just implied. Cells are not simply water-filled sacks with biomolecules bouncing about.
L. Mercer, Cell and Tissue Ultrastructure: A Functional Perspective (W. H. Freeman and Company, 1993), p. ] Diagrams: (A and B) After H. , Molecular Cell Biology, 6th ed. (W. H. Freeman and Company, 2008), p. indd 9 11/17/11 11:29 AM 10 1 Biochemistry and the Unity of Life two membranes separated by the periplasmic space. Although human beings are composed of 100 trillion cells, we carry more than that number of bacteria in us and on us. ” For example, the prokaryotes living in our intestines assist us in the process of digestion.