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Monday, July 16, 2007

The Calvin Cycle

Are You an Intelligent Designer?

The Rubisco reaction results in fixation of carbon dioxide and the production of two molecules of glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate each of which contains three caron atoms [Fixing Carbon: the Rubisco Reaction]. The starting substrate is ribulose 1,5- bisphosphate, a 5-carbon sugar derivative [Monday's Molecule #34]. Here's a schematic diagram of the reaction showing the carbon skeletons with the newly incorporated carbon atom in blue.
In order for this to become a cycle you have to regenerate the original substrate—a five-carbon compound. And in order for it to be a biosynthesis pathway you have to have net synthesis of one of the products. It was the working out of this stoichiometry that got Melvin Calvin the Nobel Prize in 1961 [Nobel Laureate: Melvin Calvin]. Do you think you can figure out the strategy for regenerating the five-carbon substrate? Here are the rules.
  1. You start with three cycles of the Rubisco reaction, using up three 5C molecules and producing six 3C molecules. One of the 3C molecules enters the normal metabolic pathways and the other five are used to regenerate three 5C molecules (5 x 3C = 3 x 5C).
  2. You can fuse molecules to create larger ones (e.g., 3C + 3C = 6C).
  3. You can cleave large molecules to create smaller ones (e.g. 6C = 3C + 3C) as long as there are no intermediates with only one carbon (1C) or two carbons (2C).
  4. You can swap 2C units between molecules provided that no products are 1C or 2C (e.g, 7C + 3C = 5C + 5C is allowed).
  5. You can swap 3C units between molecules provided that no products are 1C or 2C (e.g, 7C + 3C = 4C + 6C is allowed).
Here's an outline of the Calvin Cycle. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to design the regeneration pathway beginning with five molecules of glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate (5 x 3C) and ending with three molecules of ribulose 1,5- bisphosphate (3 x 5C). You just need to account for the carbon shuffling reactions.

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