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What are Enzymes?

11/8/2013 7:55:43 AM | by Anonymous


Enzymes are large biological molecules which are responsible for the thousands of metabolic processes that sustain life. They are highly selective catalysts and can greatly accelerating both the rate and specificity of metabolic reactions from the digestion of food to the synthesis of DNA.


Although, most enzymes are proteins and some catalytic RNA molecules have been identified, the enzymes can still adopt a specific three dimensional structure and employ inorganic and organic cofactors to assist in catalysis.


In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning process are called substrates and are converted into different molecules that are called as products. Almost all the chemical reactions in the biological cell need enzymes in order to occur rate that is sufficient for life and since enzymes are selective for their substrates and can speed up only a few reactions from the many possibilities, the set of enzymes made in the cell can determine which metabolic pathways to occur in that cell.


Like all catalyst, enzymes can work by lowering the activation energy for a reaction and also increase the rate of the reaction hence products are formed faster and reactions can reach the equilibrium state more rapidly. In some cases, enzyme reaction rates are millions of times faster than those of comparable un-catalyzed reactions.


Enzymes are not consumed by reactions they catalyze nor do they alter the equilibrium of these reactions however they do differ from other catalysts in that as they are highly specific for their substrates. Enzymes are also known to catalyze about four thousand biochemical reactions and a few RNA molecules are called ribozymes whereas synthetic molecules are called artificial enzymes.


However, the activity of enzyme can be affected by other molecules. Inhibitors are molecules that can decrease the enzyme activity while activators are molecules that increase activity. There are many poisons and drugs that are enzyme inhibitors too. Activity can be affected by chemical environment, pressure, temperature and the concentration of substrate.


Some enzymes are also used commercially such as in the synthesis of antibiotics. Additionally, some household products use enzymes to speed up biochemical reactions such as enzymes in biological washing powders to break down the fat or protein stains on the clothes. Enzymes in the meat tenderizes can also break down proteins into smaller molecules by making the meat easier to chew.

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