Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons. What they are and why we should care. PAH – Just what are they?. Polycyclic – composed of multiple rings Aromatic – deals with the number of electrons in the pi bonding system Hydrocarbon – composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms. Okay, so what?.
What they are
and why we should care
In short, they damage DNA. DNA damage can lead to cancer… And everybody just loves cancer, right?
But how is the damage done?
DNA’s structure basically has a bunch of flat molecules stacked on top of each other – and PAH are also flat.
PAH can intercalate between the base pairs in DNA
Once between the base pairs, the PAH can react with the bases or with the phosphate backbone of DNA.
In a nutshell, the PAH bound to DNA can lead to either the breaking of the DNA backbone or to mutations during transcription.
- Oxidation of PAH by enzymes in the liver
However, the resulting product binds DNA.
In short, lots of places –
Generally, they result from the incomplete combustion of fuels and other organic substances (i.e. tobacco or that overcooked steak).