ILKA HAASE AND MARKUS FISCHER
Institute of Food Chemistry, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
ADELBERT BACHER, WOLFGANG EISENREICH, AND FELIX ROHDICH
Institute of Biochemistry, Department Chemie, Technische Universität München, München, Germany
Whereas plants and certain microorganisms can generate all required coenzymes from CO2 or simple organic precursors, animals must obtain precursors (designated as vitamins) for a major fraction of their coenzymes from nutritional sources. Still, most vitamins must be converted into the actual coenzymes by reactions catalyzed by animal enzymes. The structures and biosynthetic pathways of some coenzymes are characterized by extraordinary complexity. Enzymes for coenzyme biosynthesis have frequently low catalytic rates, and some of them catalyze reactions with highly unusual mechanisms.
Many coenzymes (cofactors) involved in human and animal metabolism were discovered in the first half of the twentieth century, and their isolation and structure elucidation were hailed as milestones as shown by the impressive number of Nobel prizes awarded for research in that area. Studies on coenzyme biosynthesis were typically initiated in the second half of the twentieth century and have generated a massive body of literature that continues to grow rapidly because the area still involves many incompletely resolved problems. In parallel, numerous novel coenzymes were discovered relatively recently by studies of microorganisms. In this ...