What are enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts in biochemical reactions in the body. They accelerate the course of chemical reactions without being used up themselves. Enzymes are therefore essential for all metabolic processes in the body.
The different types of enzymes
There are different types of enzymes, each specialized in a specific type of reaction. The main types of enzymes are:
- Hydrolases : These enzymes catalyze hydrolysis, the breaking down of molecules using water. Examples of hydrolases are lipases, proteases and amylases.
- Oxidoreductases : These enzymes are involved in redox reactions in which electrons are transferred between molecules. Examples of oxidoreductases are alcohol dehydrogenases and cytochromes.
- Transferases : These enzymes are responsible for the transfer of groups such as phosphate or methyl between molecules. Examples of transferases are kinase and methyltransferases.
- Isomerases : These enzymes are responsible for converting molecules into their isomers, i.e. their structural variants. Examples of isomerases are enolase and triose phosphate isomerase.
- Ligases : These enzymes catalyze the formation of bonds between molecules. Examples of ligases are DNA ligases and RNA polymerases.
How do enzymes work?
Enzymes work by reducing the activation energy of chemical reactions. Every chemical reaction requires a certain amount of energy to start. This energy is called the activation energy. Enzymes reduce this energy by moving the substrate to a more favorable position, increasing the likelihood that a chemical reaction will take place. Enzymes are also able to increase the stability of the transition states of reactions, thus increasing the reaction rate.
The enzyme mechanism
The mechanism by which enzymes work is called the "lock and key model". The substrate fits like a key into the enzyme, which works like a lock. The enzyme ensures that the substrate is placed in the correct position to enable a reaction. Once the substrate fits into the enzyme, it becomes a transition state that is stabilized by the enzyme.
The enzyme ensures that the reaction runs faster and the product is formed more quickly. After the reaction is complete, the product is released and the enzyme can be reused.
enzymes in the human body
- Enzymes play an important role in the digestive tract, breaking down food into smaller molecules
- Amylases in the pancreas convert starch into glucose
- Proteases in the stomach and small intestine are responsible for the digestion of proteins
- Enzymes are also involved in other important processes in the body, such as energy production and cell division
- Cytochromes are enzymes involved in the respiratory chain that play an important role in energy production
- Telomerase is an enzyme responsible for repairing and growing DNA and plays an important role in cell division.
Enzymes as Therapeutics
Enzymes can also be used as therapeutics. An example of this is the use of enzymes to treat inflammation and pain. Proteolytic enzymes can help reduce inflammation in the body by breaking down dead cells and stimulating the immune system.
The diverse role of enzymes in the body
From digestion to therapy
Enzymes are essential molecules that play an important role in the human body. They are responsible for accelerating and regulating chemical reactions. Enzymes are very specific in their function and only work with certain substrates, which they convert into products. Enzymes are involved in many processes in the body, such as digestion, energy production and cell division. Enzyme defects and disorders can lead to disease, but enzymes can also be used as therapeutics to treat inflammation and pain.