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Additional info for About Life: Concepts in Modern Biology
Chemical derivatives of oxygen can irreversibly alter important molecules, rendering them useless. Therefore, the cell has to protect its molecules against the continual threat of chemical damage. The protective devices that it uses are products of metabolism. Therefore, metabolism is needed to protect and maintain the cell's structures as well as to make, replace, assemble and disassemble them. Cell structure and organisation are necessary for metabolism and metabolism is necessary for cell structure and organisation.
Let us sum up so far. • Water flow inside the cell is generated by metabolism, by membrane transport processes, by energy-dependent movements of the cytoskeleton, and perhaps by other means. • Small water-soluble molecules move through the cytoplasm in the flowing water. They cross membranes by means of specific transport devices or pumps. Metabolite flow over enzyme (catalytic) assemblies probably increases the efficiency of metabolism. • How large water-soluble molecules move through cytoplasm is not completely understood, but proteins are often targeted to specific destinations where they become bound.
Cellular homeostasis seems to be rooted (at least partly) in the three-way relationship among transport processes, metabolism and cell structure. We need a convenient term for this three-way relationship and the homeostatic control that it generates. From now on we shall describe the picture of the cell encapsulated in Fig. 6-1 as the cell’s internal state. “Internal state” denotes the quantities of all the cell’s ingredients at a particular moment, their organisation in space, the sum total of the metabolic events taking place, the directions of all the transport processes and what they are transporting, and the ways in which these different features interlock.