Painting Tears

Bambi losing his mother must be one of the most memorable movie moments, sending tears streaming down the face of many a viewer. Carried within these salty droplets is the anti-bacterial enzyme lysozyme. It’s also found in our saliva and in the secretions that line our stomach and nasal passages. In 1965 David C. Phillips uncovered the structure of this protein (pictured), and in doing so discovered how it manages to kill certain bacteria. The task of illustrating this enzyme’s complexity, before the days of advanced computer programmes, was left to scientific artist Irving Geis, born this day in 1908. After six months of labour, Geis produced this colourful watercolour representation of lysozyme, published in 1966 in popular science journal, Scientific American.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

I bought a whiteboard for when I go back to college, It is pretty nice.  I am taking biochemistry in the fall and in preparation for that I am memorizing the amino acids and their structures.  In order to test myself on them, I printed out the sequence of chicken Lysozyme C and drew out the Lewis structure of the protein.  It is at the same time awesome and stupid.

Cristal de lysozyme

Le lysozyme est une protéine globulaire formée de 129 acides aminés (chez l’être humain), que l’on rencontre dans un certain nombre de sécrétions (larmes, salive, lait maternel, mucus…) et dans le blanc d’œuf, chez de nombreuses espèces d’animaux, dont insectes et acariens1.

Il s’agit d’une hydrolase acide (EC sécrétée par les granulocytes et les monocytes. Elle détruit la paroi bactérienne en catalysant l’hydrolyse des peptidoglycanes la constituant. Cette propriété a incité certains auteurs à la qualifier d’antibiotique corporel.

Cette protéine a été découverte par Alexander Fleming en 1922.

Le lysozyme de blanc d’œuf (type-C) possède une saveur sucrée 200 fois plus intense que celle de la protéine édulcorante thaumatine (au seuil de perception)2.

source: wikipédia


Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) at work in his laboratory in St. Mary’s Hospital, London. In addition to discovering the antibiotic substance penicillin from the mould Penicillium notatum in 1928, Fleming discovered the enzyme lysozyme in 1923.

Crystals of hen egg lysozyme protein created for X-ray crystallography, which can reveal detailed, three-dimensional protein structures. Credit:
Alex McPherson, University of California, Irvine.


Sir Alexander made two important discoveries during his lifetime. In 1921 he discovered Lysozyme which is an antiseptic found in tears and other bodily secretion. His second discovery was Penicillin. He discovered Penicillin by accident on September 23rd in 1928. While working on the influenza virus he found that a mold culture prevented growth of staphylococci, even when diluted 800 times. He named it Penicillin because it’s a member of the penicillium family. His discovery of Penicillin was a turning point in medicine. Before this discovery there were no concrete cures for ailments. From this discovery people have been able to live longer, and it sparked further study on the properties of antibiotics.

illogiq said:

So, while RPF has many practical applications industry-wise, there is much more to it. It functions by cleaving the β(1→4)-linkage in Peptidoglycan in a similar fashion to Lysozyme. To clarify, Peptidoglycan is a major component of the cell wall, especially in gram-positive bacteria. Cleaving this β(1→4)-linkage tears apart the cell wall in slight amounts, and, as my research has confirmed, awakens dormant bacterial cells. My research provided evidence of RPF's function and practicality as well.


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