AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: Dehydration

Just Add Water: Water’s Importance in Protein Folding

It’s amazing that two hydrogens and an oxygen atom is the basis of life. We are made of 60% of this simple compound, water, and is necessary for repairing cells, tissue, and keeping our organs functioning properly.

According to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, water is why amino acids fold into their proper shapes. Amino acids are considered the building blocks of life and compose proteins. To delve further into the structure and function of amino acids, click here. Dongping Zhong was the leader of the research group and made the breakthrough discovery of water-protein interaction. He used laser pulses to take snapshots of water molecules moving around a DNA polymerase- the enzyme that helps DNA reproduce. Zhong observed that the water directly interacted with the R groups, the part of the amino acid that attach and detach with other amino acids to fold and direct the protein’s function.


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It is important to note, however, that water is not the only factor in determining protein shape. Proteins can only fold and unfold in a few different ways, which depend on the amino acids they are comprised of. Nonetheless, water and amino acids themselves are the two reasons for DNA replication and the dozens of other activities that proteins take part in. Zhong’s discovery is just an homage to the larger role of water in everyday life: by just adding water, life runs smoothly.

If this information doesn’t convince you to drink more water, read about the molecular changes our body experiences with lack of water, or when we are dehydrated.

Need a Nap?

If you’re like me and enjoy soaking up the sun on a nice warm day, you may notice that after a little time in the sun… you’re ready for a nap! I sure know I am! I’ve always wondered why relaxing in the sun leads to feeling more exhausted than rejuvenated. Well here’s why!

Photo Taken by: Anthony Citrano (link to portfolio)

Our bodies are constantly working hard to maintain homeostasis, specifically temperature. On a warm day our bodies adjust to maintain this specific temperature. One way our bodies do this is through vasodilation. Vasodilation is the widening of blood vessels that result from the relaxation of muscular walls. This process allows for more blood to flow near the surface of your skin, allowing time for your blood to cool and release heat as it travels towards the skin’s surface. (If you ever find yourself over heated this increased blood flow near the skin explains why some people appear beet red when they’re hot)! Another way our bodies work to maintain homeostasis of body temperature is through sweat. When warm, our bodies secrete sweat onto our skin which then cools our skin as sweat evaporates!

But, in order for vasodilation and sweating to occur, our bodies have to do some work. Our heart and metabolic rates increase. It’s these occurrences that eventually lead to us feeling sleepy. Dehydration also plays a key role in fatigue. As your body secretes sweat, in attempts to cool down, you become more and more dehydrated.

Dehydration, when sun bathing, is also present if your skin gets burned or damaged. A sunburn is a sign that UV radiation has damaged the DNA in your skin cells. When you get sunburned, your body is constantly trying to repair the damage to those skin cells. One way the body attempts to repair the damage of a burn is diverting fluid from the rest of the body towards the burn leading to dehydration and therefore leading to fatigue.

In conclusion, as you soak up the rays wherever you may be, the best thing to do is to stay hydrated! Drink lots of non-diuretic beverages such as water and eat a salty snack! Non-diuretic beverages are those that keep you hydrated! Remaining hydrated will help somewhat with the fatigue you feel as you try and relax in the sun… what a paradox!!

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