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Biochem J. 1993 Oct 15;295 ( Pt 2):477-83.

Optimization of molecular design in the evolution of metabolism: the glycogen molecule.

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  • 1Departamento de Bioquímica, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.


The animal glycogen molecule has to be designed in accordance with its metabolic function as a very effective fuel store allowing quick release of large amounts of glucose. In addition, the design should account for a high capacity of glucose storage in the least possible space. We have studied the optimization of these variables by means of a mathematical model of the glycogen molecule. Our results demonstrate that the structure is optimized to maximize (a) the total glucose stored in the smallest possible volume, (b) the proportion of it that can be directly released by phosphorylase before any debranching occurs, and (c) the number of non-reducing ends (points of attack for phosphorylase), which maximizes the speed of fuel release. The optimization of these four variables is achieved with appropriate values for two key parameters in glycogen design: the degree of branching and the length of the chains. The optimal values of these two parameters are precisely those found in cellular glycogen.

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