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Field of science concerned with chemical substances and processes that occur in plants, animals, and microorganisms. It involves the quantitative determination and structural analysis of the organic compounds that make up cells (proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids) and of those that play key roles in chemical reactions vital to life (e.g., nucleic acids, vitamins, and hormones). Biochemists study cells' many complex and interrelated chemical changes. Examples include the chemical reactions by which proteins and all their precursors are synthesized, food is converted to energy (seemetabolism), hereditary characteristics are transmitted (seeheredity), energy is stored and released, and all biological chemical reactions are catalyzed (seecatalysis, enzyme). Biochemistry straddles the biological and physical sciences and uses many techniques common in medicine and physiology as well as those of organic, analytical, and physical chemistry.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on biochemistry, visit Britannica.com.