In Search of Mitochondrial Mechanisms: Interfield Excursions between Cell Biology and Biochemistry

Journal of the History of Biology 40 (1):1 - 33 (2007)
Abstract
Developing models of biological mechanisms, such as those involved in respiration in cells, often requires collaborative effort drawing upon techniques developed and information generated in different disciplines. Biochemists in the early decades of the 20th century uncovered all but the most elusive chemical operations involved in cellular respiration, but were unable to align the reaction pathways with particular structures in the cell. During the period 1940-1965 cell biology was emerging as a new discipline and made distinctive contributions to understanding the role of the mitochondrion and its component parts in cellular respiration. In particular, by developing techniques for localizing enzymes or enzyme systems in specific cellular components, cell biologists provided crucial information about the organized structures in which the biochemical reactions occurred. Although the idea that biochemical operations are intimately related to and depend on cell structures was at odds with the then-dominant emphasis on systems of soluble enzymes in biochemistry, a reconceptualization of energetic processes in the 1960s and 1970s made it clear why cell structure was critical to the biochemical account. This paper examines how numerous excursions between biochemistry and cell biology contributed a new understanding of the mechanism of cellular respiration
Keywords biochemistry  cell biology  cell fractionation  cellular respiration  decomposition  discipline  electron microscopy  interdisciplinary  interfield theories  localization  mechanistic explanation  metabolism  mitochondria
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Dimitri Ginev (2012). Two Accounts of the Hermeneutic Fore-Structure of Scientific Research. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 26 (4):423-445.
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