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with severe, uncontrolled diabetes, for example, is often below the normal value of 7.4; this condition is called acidosis. In certain other disease states the pH of the blood is higher than normal, the condition of alkalosis.

Weak Acids and Bases Have Characteristic Dissociation Constants

Hydrochloric, sulfuric, and nitric acids, commonly called strong acids, are completely ionized in dilute aqueous solutions; the strong bases NaOH and KOH are also completely ionized. Of more interest to biochemists is the behavior of weak acids and bases—those not completely ionized when dissolved in water. These are common in biological systems and play important roles in metabolism and its regulation. The behavior of aqueous solutions of weak acids and bases is best understood if we first define some terms.

Acids may be defined as proton donors and bases as proton acceptors. A proton donor and its corresponding proton acceptor make up a conjugate acid-base pair (Fig. 2-16). Acetic acid (CH3COOH), a proton donor, and the acetate anion (CH3COO~), the corre sponding proton acceptor, constitute a conjugate acid-base pair, related by the reversible reaction

CH3COOH

Each acid has a characteristic tendency to lose its proton in an aqueous solution. The stronger the acid, the greater its tendency to lose its proton. The tendency of any acid (HA) to lose a proton and form its conjugate base (A_) is defined by the equilibrium constant (Keq) for the reversible reaction

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