Reactions in action
19 March 2004
Enzymes enable biological systems to function, speeding up the myriad chemical reactions upon which life depends. Understanding how these biological catalysts work at the molecular level promises undreamt-of technological benefits...
Enzymes enable biological systems to function, speeding up the myriad chemical reactions upon which life depends. Understanding how these biological catalysts work at the molecular level promises undreamt-of technological benefits in the form of new drugs, and new genetic analyses and catalytic processes. But the challenge is how to ‘see’ the interactions involved in a biological reaction ‘as it happens’. Computer modelling can provide a uniquely detailed insight, beyond the reach of current experiments.
Using molecular modelling methods, Dr Adrian Mulholland in the Chemistry Department has examined a number of important biochemical mechanisms. For example, he has investigated enzymes that cause bacteria to break down and resist antibiotics, which will help to overcome the growing problem of antibiotic resistance and aid the development of new antibacterial therapies. His research into enzymes that metabolise drugs in the human body has yielded knowledge that will be useful in the development of more effective drugs. He has also studied the effects of genetic differences on the metabolism of foreign compounds in the body, producing models that will help predict how people differ in their susceptibility to carcinogens or drugs.
In addition, his collaborative research with experimental chemists and biologists has identified new catalytic interactions and processes. The modelling has included studying the principles of enzyme catalysts at their most fundamental level, and a calculation of the basic quantum mechanical properties of the reactions – all of which will make a vital contribution towards ‘seeing’ the most elemental processes of life.
Dr Mulholland was awarded support from the IBM Life Sciences Outreach Programme and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council for this work on computer modelling of enzyme reactions.