Enzymes – Cell Facts

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What are enzymes?

Enzymes are a specific type of protein. There are many different kinds of proteins that help cells perform many different functions, and enzymes have important, specific jobs in cell functioning. The primary function of an enzyme is to work as a catalyst.

Enzymes, acting as catalysts, help create and increase the speed of important chemical reactions within the cell. If a cellular function needs to be arranged, most of the time an enzyme will help make sure the chemical reaction happens fast enough to produce the intended results.

Glucosidase Enzyme

How do enzymes work?

Enzymes only work for their specific purpose. There are many different kinds of enzymes for many different kinds of substances and chemical reactions that they need to facilitate, and only the right kind of enzyme will react with the right kind of substance.

There is an indentation in the surface of each enzyme called an active site. This is the site where they bind with the molecule of the chemical they need to facilitate the reaction of. The molecule of the substance that binds in the enzyme’s active site is called a substrate.

There is first a reaction between the enzyme and its substrate within their binding at the active site. After this reaction has completed, the enzyme will release a brand new substance, called a product.

What factors can influence the functioning of an enzyme?

There are many different factors and conditions that need to be just right for an enzyme to function properly. Different situations can influence the ability and the speed of an enzyme’s work. Denatured enzymes are enzymes that have stopped working altogether.

These conditions include the temperature of the surrounding area, the pH balance (meaning the acidity or alkalinity) of the surrounding area, the concentration, and the presence of any inhibitors.

Temperature of the surrounding area affects enzyme abilities in that the lower the temperature, the slower the chemical reaction will be. However, too high temperatures can denature the enzyme as well.

Enzyme Structure

Enzymes need to function in relatively moderate pH, meaning that they cannot function in either an extremely high or extremely low pH—an environment that is too acidic or too alkaline.

Lower concentrations of either the substrate or the enzyme during the reaction process can decrease the rate of reactions, and vice versa.

Finally, there exist certain molecules that act as inhibitors of enzymatic activity. They are molecules that have the sole function of stopping enzymes from doing their jobs. Sometimes these inhibitors just decrease the speed of the chemical reaction.

Sometimes, however, inhibitors will block an enzyme’s active site so that it won’t work with its intended substrate. On the other hand, there are substances that are meant to help increase the chemical reaction speed of an enzyme, called activators.

enzyme binding site

Additional information about enzymes

Enzymes can perform their functions multiple times with multiple chemical reactions, as long as they are continuously paired with the correct substrate.

The way that many poisons and drugs hurt the body is by inhibiting certain enzymes. For instance, there are certain snakes that produce venom that work as inhibitors.

Questions:

  1. What is an enzyme?
  2. What is the purpose of enzymes?
  3. What do catalysts do?
  4. What is a substrate?
  5. Where do substrates work?

Answers:

  1. Enzymes are a specific type of protein.
  2. Enzymes work as catalysts.
  3. Catalysts create and speed up chemical reactions.
  4. The molecule of the substance that binds in the enzyme’s active site is called a substrate.
  5. Substrates bind to enzymes at the active site.

Biology

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