Related topics: protein · cells · bacteria · chemical reactions · cancer

Building blocks of all life gain new understanding

New research on an enzyme that is essential for photosynthesis and all life on earth has uncovered a key finding in its structure which reveals how light can interact with matter to make an essential pigment for life.

Wily tuberculosis bacteria can vary its diet to infect you longer

Worldwide, approximately one in four people is infected by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and while overall New Zealand has relatively low rates of TB, Māori and Pacific people are eight times more likely to be affected than ...

Deuteration of molecules using enzymes

Typical routes for making per-deuterated molecules for neutron scattering use chemical methods that are unsuitable for molecules with sensitive functional groups, for example the use of metal catalysts, high temperature and ...

Better 'housekeeping' in wood-decomposing fungi

Scientists hope to harness fungi that decompose the most abundant type of biomass in wood, lignocellulose. Lignocellulose could be used to create the building-blocks of polymers for bioproducts. The key to understanding how ...

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Enzymes are biomolecules that catalyze (i.e., increase the rates of) chemical reactions. Nearly all known enzymes are proteins. However, certain RNA molecules can be effective biocatalysts too. These RNA molecules have come to be known as ribozymes. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process are called substrates, and the enzyme converts them into different molecules, called the products. Almost all processes in a biological cell need enzymes to occur at significant rates. Since enzymes are selective for their substrates and speed up only a few reactions from among many possibilities, the set of enzymes made in a cell determines which metabolic pathways occur in that cell.

Like all catalysts, enzymes work by lowering the activation energy (Ea or ΔG‡) for a reaction, thus dramatically increasing the rate of the reaction. Most enzyme reaction rates are millions of times faster than those of comparable un-catalyzed reactions. As with all catalysts, enzymes are not consumed by the reactions they catalyze, nor do they alter the equilibrium of these reactions. However, enzymes do differ from most other catalysts by being much more specific. Enzymes are known to catalyze about 4,000 biochemical reactions. A few RNA molecules called ribozymes catalyze reactions, with an important example being some parts of the ribosome. Synthetic molecules called artificial enzymes also display enzyme-like catalysis.

Enzyme activity can be affected by other molecules. Inhibitors are molecules that decrease enzyme activity; activators are molecules that increase activity. Many drugs and poisons are enzyme inhibitors. Activity is also affected by temperature, chemical environment (e.g., pH), and the concentration of substrate. Some enzymes are used commercially, for example, in the synthesis of antibiotics. In addition, some household products use enzymes to speed up biochemical reactions (e.g., enzymes in biological washing powders break down protein or fat stains on clothes; enzymes in meat tenderizers break down proteins, making the meat easier to chew).

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