It only takes a glass of wine..

“Yet we are talking about several hundred thousand types of protein, perhaps a million, each unique and each as far as we know, vital to a sound and happy you. And it goes on from there. To be of use a protein must not only assemble amino acids in the right sequence, it must then engage in a kind of chemical origami and fold itself into a very specific shape. Even having achieved this structural complexity, a protein is no good to you unless it reproduces itself and proteins can’t. For this you need DNA. DNA is a whizz at replicating – it can make a copy of itself in seconds – but can do virtually nothing else. So we have a paradoxical situation. Proteins can’t exist without DNA and DNA has no purpose without proteins. Are we to assume then, that they arose simultaneously with the purpose of supporting each other? If so, wow”

“Proteins are what you get when you string amino acids together, and we need a lot of them. No-one really knows , but there may be as many as a million types of protein in the human body, and each one is a little miracle. By all the laws of probability proteins shouldn’t exist. To make a protein you need to assemble amino acids (which I am obliged by long tradition to refer to here as “the building blocks of life”) in a particular order, in much the same way that you assemble letters in a particular order to spell a word.”

“Proteins are the workhorses of all living systems; as many as a hundred million of them may be busy in any cell at any moment. That’s  a lot of activity to try to figure out. Worse, proteins’ behaviour and functions are based not simply on their chemistry, as with genes, but also on their shapes. To function a protein not only must have the necessary chemical components, properly assembled, but then must be folded into an extremely  specific shape. “folding is a term that’s used, but its a misleading one as it suggests a geometrical tidiness that doesn’t in fact apply. Proteins loop and coil and crinkle into shapes that are at once extravagant and complex. They are more like furiously mangled coat hangers than folded towels. Moreover proteins are the swingers of the biological world. Depending on mood and circumstances , they will allow themselves to be phosphorilated,glycosylated,acetylated, ubiquitinated,farneysylated, sulphated and linked to glycophosphatidylinositol anchors among rather a lot else. Often it takes relatively little to get them going, it appears.

Drink a glass of wine, as Scientific American notes and you materially alter the number and types of proteins at large in your system.

Ethanol is one of the few nutrients that is profoundly toxic. Alcohol causes both whole-body and tissue specific changes in protein metabolism

It took several billion years to evolve this complexity of life,  yet we can throw it into disarray with one glass of wine


With thanks to Bill Bryson’s , “A Short History of Nearly Everything”

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