Don’t try this at home
- BuyAdrenaline by Brian Hoffman
Harvard, 298 pp, £18.95, April 2013, ISBN 978 0 674 05088 4
There’s a scene in Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction in which John Travolta’s character, a hitman called Vincent Vega, who has escorted his boss’s wife home after an evening out, returns from the bathroom to find her unconscious on the floor. Mia (Uma Thurman) has taken a bag of heroin from his jacket pocket and, mistaking the white powder for cocaine, snorted a line and collapsed. Vincent throws her into a car and hurtles round to his dealer’s house. The dealer fills a syringe with adrenaline and tells him to stab it into Mia’s heart; Vincent slams it through her breastbone and pushes the plunger. Her eyes flicker, she convulses, and then, shocked into life like the Bride of Frankenstein, she suddenly sits up, wide awake and gasping for breath.
Vol. 35 No. 18 · 26 September 2013
Gavin Francis forgets his biochemistry when he writes that ‘adrenaline locks into lumpy molecules called G proteins that span the cell membrane’ (LRB, 29 August). Nor do the G proteins, as Francis claims, convert ATP to cAMP. Adrenaline binds to alpha or beta receptors that span the cell membrane. It is these receptors that are linked to G proteins, which reside on the underside of the membrane. The G proteins in turn activate various subcellular targets, including an enzyme (adenylyl cyclase) that converts ATP to the messenger molecule cAMP. The multi-component process is essential for fine control and further amplification of the adrenaline signal; it also allows cells to integrate the signal with those from other hormones and neurotransmitters.