What is biochemistry

The biochemistry, earlier too Physiological chemistry, (Greek βιοχημεία biochēmeia, "The chemistry of life") is the study of the chemical processes in living beings. She works on the border or overlap area between chemistry, biology and physiology.

Subject of biochemistry

Biochemistry deals with:

  • the investigation of biomolecular structure: how are the biomolecules built, what is the molecular structure of the organism of living beings, how are the molecular building blocks provided and how do they interact with each other?
  • the investigation of the exchange of information within an organism and between organisms: how is information stored, retrieved and passed on, how are different systems within a cell, between different cells and between organisms coordinated?

In the course of this, the considerations concentrate on the substance groups of nucleic acids, proteins, lipids and carbohydrates as well as their derivatives, which are generally referred to as biomolecules. The majority of the biochemically important processes take place in living beings and thus in an aqueous environment.

Methods of biochemistry

A large number of methods from different areas are used in biochemistry. Classical biochemistry mainly uses analytical chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry and physics. Important techniques are centrifugation, chromatography, electrophoresis, spectroscopy, isotope techniques, crystallization, potentiometric, electrometric, polarographic and manometric techniques.In the last few decades, molecular biological methods and methods from computer science, microbiology and other subjects have also been added. In addition, in modern biochemistry there is always the quantitative evaluation of the results using mathematical methods.

History of biochemistry

Biochemistry has developed from biology, chemistry and medical physiology since the beginning of the 19th century and has been closely linked to genetics and cell biology from the beginning. These sciences continue to work hand in hand, and their boundaries greatly overlap. The fields of biochemistry, cell biology and genetics are now often grouped under the heading of molecular biology.

The term biochemistry was first used when Vinzenz Kletzinsky (1826–1882) had his "Compendium of Biochemistry" printed in Vienna in 1858.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Georg Carl Ludwig Sigwart in Tübingen was one of the first Germans to study biochemistry. Among other things, he worked on acid indicators in autumn crops, analyzes of gallstones and urinary stones and the proteins of blood serum. In France, Anselme Payen discovered diastase, the first enzyme, in 1833. From 1845, Julius Eugen Schloßberger isolated creatine from alligator muscle meat in his laboratory in the kitchen of Hohentübingen Castle, analyzed rachitic bones, the iodine content of corals and the copper in hemocyanin. His successor Felix Hoppe-Seyler worked in the same place from 1861 to 1872. with muscle contraction, rigor mortis, lactic acid from glycogen, oxidizing and reducing enzymes and hemoglobin. Under his direction, Friedrich Miescher discovered the nucleus in 1869. Eduard Buchner, associate professor of chemistry in Tübingen from 1896 to 1898, discovered cell-free fermentation in 1896 and was honored with the Nobel Prize for it in 1907. Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins, a pioneer of biochemistry in Great Britain, discovered vitamins and essential amino acids in 1912 and was awarded the Nobel Prize for them in 1929. In 1926 Otto Heinrich Warburg discovered the respiratory enzyme cytochrome oxidase, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1931.

Milestones in biochemistry


Research institutes in the German-speaking area

(The list is incomplete)

  • Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry [1], Martinsried
  • Leibniz Institute for Plant Biochemistry [2], Halle (Saale)
  • Biozentrum of the University of Basel [3], Basel
  • European Molecular Biology Laboratory [4], Heidelberg
  • Max Planck Research Center for Enzymology of Protein Folding [5], Halle (Saale)

Biochemistry has become an integral part of university education, especially for doctors and biologists, but also for other natural scientists, so there are institutes for biochemistry at many German universities.

Outline of biochemistry

Depending on the research area, biochemistry can be divided into the following sub-areas:

  • medical biochemistry
  • ecological biochemistry
  • Plant biochemistry
  • Protein chemistry
  • Immunobiochemistry
  • Neurobiochemistry
  • Enzymology
  • Natural product biochemistry
  • physical biochemistry


Study of biochemistry

Currently (2007) there are biochemistry courses in Germany leading to a diploma, a bachelor's or master's degree:

  • The biochemistry diploma course has a standard period of study of 9 to 10 semesters, a maximum duration of 13 to 14 semesters and leads to a professional qualification Graduated biochemist.
  • The bachelor's degree in biochemistry has a standard period of 6 to 8 semesters and leads to a professional qualification Bachelor of Science - Biochemistry.

In addition to studying biochemistry, there is the option of studying chemistry or biology and specializing in biochemistry during the course. A specialization usually takes place through the choice of biochemistry as an elective or main subject and the preparation of the diploma thesis, bachelor thesis or master thesis in the field of biochemistry. This variant offers the advantage that first-year students do not have to decide directly on a pure biochemistry course. Rather, they have the opportunity to get to know various subjects in the basic course in order to then commit to a certain specialization (e.g. biochemistry) during the main course. The opportunity to do this is given at many German universities and the standard study times correspond to those of the pure biochemistry courses.

The specialist in biochemistry

There is also the option of studying medicine in Germany as a Specialist in biochemistry to take action. This requires a four-year training period. Can be counted towards this

  • 1 year of internal medicine or pediatrics

On January 1, 2001, 115 biochemistry specialists were registered, one of whom was a resident. 28 did not practice any medical activity.



  • Donald Voet et al .: Biochemistry textbook. Wiley-VCH, 2002, ISBN 3-527-30519-X
  • Jeremy M. Berg, Lubert Stryer et al .: Biochemistry. 5th edition. Spectrum Academic Publishing House, 2003, ISBN 3-8274-1303-6, Online version, full text search
  • Lehninger, Nelson, Cox: Lehninger Biochemistry. 3. Edition. Springer textbook, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-540-41813-X
  • David L. Nelson, Michael M. Cox: Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. 4th edition. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004, ISBN 0-7167-4339-6 (engl.)
  • Löffler, Petrides, Heinrich: Biochemistry and pathobiochemistry. 8th edition. Springer textbook, 2007, ISBN 978-3-540-32680-9
  • Werner Müller-Esterl et al .: Biochemistry, an introduction for physicians and scientists. Spectrum Academic Publishing House, 2004, ISBN 3-8274-0534-3
  • Philipp Christen, Rolf Jaussi: Biochemistry. An introduction with 40 learning units. Springer-Verlag, 2005, ISBN 3-540-21164-0
  • Andreas Held: Examination trainer for biochemistry and cell biology. Spectrum Academic Publishing House, 2005, ISBN 3-8274-1542-X
  • Konrad Lechner: School book biochemistry. 4th edition. Bavarian school book publisher, 1998, ISBN 3-7627-4235-9
  • Peter Karlson et al .: Short textbook on biochemistry for physicians and scientists. 14th edition. Thieme, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-13-357814-6
  • Florian Horn et. al .: Human biochemistry - the textbook for medical studies. 3rd, completely revised. and exp. Edition Thieme, Stuttgart, 2005, ISBN 3-13-130883-4
  • Graeme K. Hunter: Vital Forces. The discovery of the molecular basis of life. Academic Press, London 2000, ISBN 0-12-361811-8 (engl.)
  • Joachim Rassow, Karin Hauser, Roland Netzker, Rainer Deutzmann: Biochemistry. Georg Thieme Verlag, 2006, ISBN 3-13-125351-7

Teaching materials on the Internet

  • http://www.foerstner.org/konrad/bco/grundlagen/index_grundlagen.html
  • Online basic course
  • Biochemistry Online - An Approach Based on Chemical Logic - didactically excellent online textbook

Biochemical journals

  • The Journal of Biological Chemistry - JBC Journal of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology ISSN 0021-9258
  • Biochemistry (English) ISSN 0006-2960
  • Biochemical Journal (English) ISSN 0306-3275
  • Chemistry and Biology (English) ISSN 1074-5521
  • Biological Chemistry (English) ISSN 1431-6730

Categories: Biochemistry | Branch of chemistry