Liberal Arts Blog — How Big a Deal is “Reverse Phosphorylation”? How about Super Huge? Up there with the “Double Helix”?

Liberal Arts Blog — Wednesday is the Joy of Science, Engineering, and Technology Day

Today’s Topic — How Big a Deal is “Reverse Phosphorylation”? How about Super Huge? Up there with the “Double Helix”?

In 1982, Edmond H. Fischer, who recently died at the age of 101, shared the Nobel Prize in biochemistry with Edwin G. Krebs (1918–2009) for the discovery of “reverse phosphorylation.” So what? What the heck is that? Who cares? Who should? Why has their work been likened to that of James D. Watson and Francis Crick? Seems like a real stretch to me, but I am acutely aware of my next-to-complete ignorance in this and related matters. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

NO ATP, NO LIFE

1. No DNA, no life.

2. No ATP, no life.

3. Reverse phosphorylation is key to ATP.

ATP IS A BATTERY

1. No energy harnessing, no life.

2. ATP is the usable unit of energy.

3. Reverse phosphorylation is the process by which cells are energized and de-energized.

NB: Reverse phosphorylation is the battery’s on/off switch. If you can follow the details of Edmond Fischer’s own account of his work (second link), hats off to you. If you can share with the rest of us, a succinct, comprehensible, and more accurate account of his achievement, please do.

ADD A PHOSPHATE, REMOVE A PHOSPHATE — Voila!

1. Hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo.

2. Who came up with this idea? How? When did it get started? why? by chance? really? how often does this miracle happen in your own body every second without your conscious control? So what? who cares? who should?

3. “Explained simply, reversible protein phosphorylation works like this: a protein kinase moves a phosphate group from adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to a protein, converting it to adenosine diphosphate (ADP). The shape and function of this is thus altered enabling it to take part in converting glycogen into glucose which is used for fuel for muscular contractions. When the protein has completed its role a different protein phosphatase removes the phosphate and the protein reverts to its original state. This cycle takes place to control an enormous number of metabolic processes.”

NB: “While the importance of the discovery was not fully recognized in 1955, the discovery became core to explaining one of the fundamental mechanisms that cells use to communicate with one another. Phosphorylation determines how a cell grows, divides, differentiates and eventually dies. The reaction also regulates hormones and proliferation of cancerous cells.The regulation of phosphorylation was determined to be key to understanding diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Many modern drugs build on the work done by Fischer and Krebs including attempting to manipulate the process.”

FOOTNOTE — EDWIN G. KREBS (1918–2009) VERSUS HANS ADOLPH KREBS (1900–1981)

1. Don’t confuse Edwin G. Krebs with Hans Adolph Krebs who won the Nobel Prize in 1953 for discovery of the Citric Acid Cycle, aka the Krebs Cycle.

2. Reminder: the Krebs cycle is another huge deal. See last link.

Edmond H. Fischer

Edmond Fischer (U. Washington): Reversible Protein Phosphorylation as a Regulatory Mechanism

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/02/science/edmond-h-fischer-dead.html

Hans Krebs (biochemist)

Citric acid cycle

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YOUR TURN

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