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Understanding Biochemistry is an essential online resource for post-16 students, teachers and undergraduates, providing up-to-date overviews of key concepts in biochemistry and molecular biosciences. The Understanding Biochemistry issues of Essays in Biochemistry are open access publications, meaning that these issues are freely available online to readers. If you are interested in contributing to the series or you have already agreed and would like details on how to format your article, please see our Instructions to Authors of Understanding Biochemistry page here.


Figure: Representation of substrate binding to the active site of an enzyme molecule.

Understanding biochemistry: basic aspects of statistics for life sciences
(Donald Reid)
If the biological world is one thing it is variable. As scientists we seek to measure, quantify and explain the causes of this variation. This approach involves defining clear research questions and applying statistical methods to answer them robustly. This article will introduce a practical example that will be used throughout, specifically whether genetic variation can explain variation in coffee consumption. The better we can understand and apply statistics to biological problems, the better we can communicate results and future research to others.


Uncovering protein function: from classification to complexes (Rhiannon Morris, Katrina A. Black and Elliott J. Stollar)
Almost all interactions and reactions that occur in living organisms involve proteins. The various biological roles of proteins include, but are not limited to, signal transduction, gene transcription, cell death, immune function, structural support, and catalysis of all the chemical reactions that enable organisms to survive. This issue discusses the functions of proteins and how protein function is studied in a laboratory setting.


Mammalian lipids: structure, synthesis and function (Shamshad Cockcroft)
Lipids are essential constituents of cellular membranes and have been regarded as merely structural components – but they are much more than that with roles in cell signalling and in the generation of bioactive metabolites. This issue explores the role that lipids play in regulating physiological functions, and how they are essential for the fundamental function of the cell. 


Principles of synthetic biology (Kathryn L. Garner)
Synthetic biology seeks to design and build new biology that does useful things. This issue explores the fundamental principles of synthetic biology, and the wide-ranging applications and current challenges.


Uncovering protein structure (Elliott J. Stollar; David P. Smith)
Providing the reader with an insight into protein structure and the underlying chemistry and physics that is used to uncover protein structure. 


Metabolism (Ayesha Judge; Michael S. Dodd)
This review will focus on the basics of metabolism within mammals, with mentions of other organisms too. The aim is to provide you with an understanding of the metabolic pathways that are present in animals, how energy is derived from these systems, and how they are controlled.


Recombinant DNA technology and DNA sequencing (Mark AJ Roberts)
Exploring the basic techniques that enable us to read, copy and manipulate DNA sequences, and considering some of the implications for society.


Structure and function of nucleic acids (Steve Minchin and Julia Lodge)
Summarising the structure and function of nucleic acids, including an historical perspective and some of the early work leading to the understanding of these important molecules and how they function. Transcription of DNA into RNA and translation of RNA into proteins is also covered.


The genetic basis of disease (Maria Jackson, Leah Marks, Gerhard H.W. May and Joanna B. Wilson)
Exploring the genetic basis of some of the current global disease problems.


The biochemical basis of disease (Alastair J. Barr)
Providing the reader an insight into the role of biochemistry in some of the current global health and disease problems.


Essential chemistry for biochemists (Amanda L. Jonsson, Mark A.J. Roberts, J.L. Kiappes and Kathryn A. Scott)
Providing a brief overview of those areas in chemistry that are most relevant to biochemistry, summarizing basic principles and giving examples on how these principles are applied in biological systems.


The immune system (Lindsay B. Nicholson)
Focussing on mammalian immunity, the challenges that it faces, the mechanisms by which these are addressed, and the consequences that arise when it malfunctions.


Photosynthesis (Matthew P. Johnson)
Discussing the basic principles of solar energy capture, energy, electron and proton transfer, and explaining the biochemical basis of carbon fixation and their significance. 


Biological membranes (Helen Watson)
Describing the structure and organization of membranes, membrane proteins, communication and movement across membranes and the role of membranes in health and disease.


Enzymes: principles and biotechnological applications  (Peter Robinson)
Providing an overview of the nature and classification of enzymes as well as looking at enzyme structure and substrate binding, the properties and mechanisms of enzyme action. Also covers some of the industrial and analytical applications of enzymes. 

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