Medical research

Defective degradation enzyme triggers hereditary storage diseases

In rare hereditary storage diseases such as Sandhoff's disease or Tay-Sachs syndrome, the metabolic waste from accumulating gangliosides cannot be properly disposed of in the nerve cells because important enzymes are missing. ...

Parkinson's & Movement disorders

A new drug target for chemically induced Parkinson's disease

More than three decades ago, scientists discovered that a chemical found in a synthetic opioid, MPTP, induced the onset of a form of Parkinson's disease. In a new study led by scientists from the School of Veterinary Medicine, ...

Medical research

Gut microbes eat our medication

The first time Vayu Maini Rekdal manipulated microbes, he made a decent sourdough bread. At the time, young Maini Rekdal, and most people who head to the kitchen to whip up a salad dressing, pop popcorn, ferment vegetables, ...

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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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