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Friday, December 11, 2009

The World of Isoprenes

While I was poking around the web this morning looking for some decent metabolic maps, I came upon this really excellent map of isoprenoid biosynthesis. I've seen a couple maps of similar scope, but I like how this one highlights the metabolites that people are likely to be familiar with (essential oils, vitamins) and shows how the isoprene subunit is the root of synthesis of so many disparate biological products. Isoprenes aren't just for plants - the retinal that functionalizes rhodopsin to enable us to perceive light and the cholesterol that forms the basis for the synthesis of the steroid hormones are both isoprene derivatives.

That map was put together by a real visionary, Dr. Donald Nicholson. Awardee of the ridiculously prestigious "Special Life Member" status in the IUBMB, his minimaps and animaps are changing the way people think about (and teach!) the chemistry of metabolism. His stated goal: "To Make Metabolism Meaningful, Wonderful and FUN." Bravo, sir!

For the stressed, the body-builders, the guys and gals out there who feel the effects of steroids every day: a fantastic map of steroidogenesis, courtesy Wikipedia. Bet you're glad you learned organic chemistry, right? It's never too late!

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