a scientific trend that arose on the boundary between several branches of chemistry and biology in the second half of the 20th century and developed in close association with molecular biology, biochemistry, and other biological disciplines that simultaneously investigate several very important types of substances.
Bio-organic chemistry studies substances that underlie the life processes while striving to understand their biological functions. The main substances studied in bio-organic chemistry are biopolymers (proteins and peptides, nucleic acids and nucleotides, lipids, polysaccharides, and so on), the transformations of which constitute the chemical essence of biological processes; and bioregulators (enzymes, vitamins, and hormones [including plant hormones], as well as synthetic biologically active compounds—for example, drugs, growth substances, insecticides and fungicides, herbicides, and so on), which regulate metabolism chemically. Bio-organic chemistry seeks to obtain these substances in a chemically pure state, determine their structure, synthesize them, discover the relationship between their structure and biological properties, and study the chemical aspects of the mechanism of the biological action of biopolymers and of natural and synthetic bioregulators. Bio-organic chemistry characteristically utilizes the full array of chemical and physical methods of individualizing substances (chromatography, electrophoresis, counterflow distribution, and so on) and ascertains their structure (ultraviolet, infrared, and Raman spectroscopy, magnetic nuclear resonance, electron and proton resonance, chemical mass spectrometry, X-ray diffraction analysis, and so on).
The solution of the main problems of bio-organic chemistry is important for the further progress of biology. Without the elucidation of the structure and properties of the most important biopolymers and bioregulators, it is impossible to gain insight into the nature of the life processes, much less find ways of controlling such complex phenomena as the reproduction and transmission of hereditary signs, normal and malignant cell growth, immunity, memory, and transmission of nerve impulses. Moreover, study of the highly specialized biologically active substances and the processes that take place with their participation may reveal fundamentally new possibilities for the development of chemistry, chemical technology, and engineering. Among the problems whose solution is connected to research in the field of bio-organic chemistry are the creation of strictly specific highly active catalysts (based on a study of the structure and mechanism of action of enzymes), direct conversion of chemical energy into mechanical (based on a study of muscle contraction), the use in engineering of the chemical principles of information storage and transmission found in biological systems, and the principles of self-regulation of multi-component cell systems (chiefly selective permeability of biological membranes). These problems go far beyond bio-organic chemistry proper; however, it creates the preconditions for the elaboration of the problems by maintaining reference points for the development of biochemical research in the field of molecular biology. The range and importance of its problems, the variety of methods, and the close association with other scientific disciplines have enabled bio-organic chemistry to progress rapidly.
REFERENCESShemiakin, M. M. Sovremennye problemy bioorganicheskoi khimii. Moscow, 1965.
Razvitie organicheskoi khimii ν SSSR. Moscow, 1967. Pages 509–73.
Khokhlov, A. S., and Iu. A. Ovchinnikov. Khimicheskie reguliatory biologicheskikh protsessov. Moscow, 1969.
Bioorganic Chemistry. San Francisco, 1968.
A. S. KHOKHLOV