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The exciting new field of allosteric enzymes


Using the relaxation technique to study enzyme reactions
Manfred Eigen Scientist
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Having the new method, the fast reaction... we soon could show that you don't measure only the reaction rate. Some overall rate, but you can measure a whole spectrum of time constants as you do spectra and resonance spectra in optical spectroscopy. Here you measure spectra of relaxation times which means if a reaction mechanism proceeds in many steps you get the whole mechanism from it and that's even more important than just to know how fast the reaction can go. And one of the obvious objects of study of course were enzyme reactions, because an enzyme is a complicated molecule, a protein molecule. An enzyme has to bind the substrate which it will turn over during that... it might change its conformation, it might... the reaction might go in several steps, it might form intermediates, and finally the product have to dissociate in order to allow the enzyme to re-enter the reaction cycle. So an enzyme reaction, by definition, is a complex reaction network. And we applied our relaxation technique to this, and with much success.

Nobel Prize winning German biophysical chemist, Manfred Eigen (1927-2019), was best known for his work on fast chemical reactions and his development of ways to accurately measure these reactions down to the nearest billionth of a second. He published over 100 papers with topics ranging from hydrogen bridges of nucleic acids to the storage of information in the central nervous system.

Listeners: Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitch

Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch is the eldest daughter of the Austrian physicist Klaus Osatitsch, an internationally renowned expert in gas dynamics, and his wife Hedwig Oswatitsch-Klabinus. She was born in the German university town of Göttingen where her father worked at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Aerodynamics under Ludwig Prandtl. After World War II she was educated in Stockholm, Sweden, where her father was then a research scientist and lecturer at the Royal Institute of Technology.

In 1961 Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch enrolled in Chemistry at the Technical University of Vienna where she received her PhD in 1969 with a dissertation on "Fast complex reactions of alkali ions with biological membrane carriers". The experimental work for her thesis was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Göttingen under Manfred Eigen.

From 1971 to the present Ruthild Winkler-Oswatitsch has been working as a research scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in the Department of Chemical Kinetics which is headed by Manfred Eigen. Her interest was first focused on an application of relaxation techniques to the study of fast biological reactions. Thereafter, she engaged in theoretical studies on molecular evolution and developed game models for representing the underlying chemical proceses. Together with Manfred Eigen she wrote the widely noted book, "Laws of the Game" (Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1981 and Princeton University Press, 1993). Her more recent studies were concerned with comparative sequence analysis of nucleic acids in order to find out the age of the genetic code and the time course of the early evolution of life. For the last decade she has been successfully establishing industrial applications in the field of evolutionary biotechnology.

Tags: fast reaction, optical spectroscopy, relaxation technique, enzyme reaction, complex reaction network

Duration: 1 minute, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: July 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008