On the origin of intracellular compartmentation and organized metabolic systems. - Inserm - Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale Access content directly
Journal Articles Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry Year : 2004

On the origin of intracellular compartmentation and organized metabolic systems.


The history of the development of the ideas and research of organized metabolic systems during last three decades is shortly reviewed. The cell cytoplasm is crowded with solutes, soluble macromolecules such as enzymes, nucleic acids, structural proteins and membranes. The high protein density within the large compartments of the cells predominantly determines the major characteristics of cellular environment such as viscosity, diffusion and inhomogeneity. The fact that the solvent viscosity of cytoplasm is not substantially different from the water is explained by intracellular structural heterogeneity: the intrinsic macromolecular density is relatively low within the interstitial voids in the cell because many soluble enzymes are apparently integral parts of the insoluble cytomatrix and are not distributed homogeneously. The molecular crowding and sieving restrict the mobility of very large solutes, binding severely restrict the mobility of smaller solutes. One of consequence of molecular crowding and hindered diffusion is the need to compartmentalize metabolic pathway to overcome diffusive barriers. Although the movement of small molecules is slowed down in the cytoplasm, the metabolism can successfully proceed and even be facilitated by metabolite channeling which directly transfers the intermediate from one enzyme to an adjacent enzyme without the need of free aqueous-phase diffusion. The enhanced probability for intermediates to be transferred from one active site to the other by sequential enzymes requires stable or transient interactions of the relevant enzymes, which associate physically in non-dissociable, static multienzyme complexes--metabolones, particles containing enzymes of a part or whole metabolic systems. Therefore, within the living cell the metabolism depends on the structural organization of enzymes forming microcompartments. Since cells contain many compartments and microenvironments, the measurement of the concentration of metabolites in whole cells or tissues gives an average cellular concentration and not that which is actually sensed by the active site of a specific enzyme. Thus, the microcompartmentation could provide a mechanism which can control metabolic pathways. Independently and in parallel to the developments described above, the ideas of compartmentation came into existence from the necessity to explain important physiological phenomena, in particular in heart research and in cardiac electrophysiology. These phenomena demonstrated the physiological importance of the biophysical and biochemical mechanisms described in this review.
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inserm-00392262 , version 1 (06-06-2009)


  • HAL Id : inserm-00392262 , version 1
  • PUBMED : 14977166


Judit Ovádi, Valdur A Saks. On the origin of intracellular compartmentation and organized metabolic systems.. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, 2004, 256-257 (1-2), pp.5-12. ⟨inserm-00392262⟩


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