Principles of Biological Organization and Their Applications to Molecular Structures

  • Manfred Eigen
Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (NSSA, volume 45)

Abstract of the introductory talk

What is particular about biological structure? Consider a protein molecule. It appears with a given stable conformation, without which it would never function reproducibly. Erwin Schrödinger1 called such structures aperiodic crystals, and this is, indeed, a most illustrative characterization of their three-dimensional architecture, which we nowadays can reconstruct precisely from X-ray diffraction patterns2 Particular about these aperiodic crystals is that they fulfil their assigned functions with optimal efficiency. Stability of structure requires each atom to assume — at least locally — a position of minimum potential energy. This certainly holds true for the few subgroups which form the active centre of the molecule and which are directly involved in its catalytic function. However, there is no inherent linkage between structure and function. The internal interactions which stabilize a structure have no causal relation to the final function. The structure is designed in order to fulfil a particular task. Obviously that is why a protein molecule requires hundreds of residues while only very few of them are actually involved in function.


Translation Product Stable Conformation Biological Organization Minimum Potential Energy Internal Interaction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manfred Eigen
    • 1
  1. 1.Max-Planck-Institute für biophysikalische chemie34 GöttingenGermany

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