Enzymes are biomolecules that catalyze .Almost all enzymes are proteins. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process are called substrates, and the enzyme converts them into different molecules, 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 Structures and mechanisms Enzymes are generally globular proteins and range from just 62 amino acid residues in size, for the monomer of 4-oxalocrotonate tautomerase, to over 2,500 residues in the animal fatty acid synthase.A small number of RNA-based biological catalysts exist, with the most common being the ribosome; these are referred to as either RNA-enzymes or ribozymes. The activities of enzymes are determined by their three-dimensional structure. However, although structure does determine function, predicting a novel enzyme's activity just from its structure is a very difficult problem that has not yet been solved.

Most enzymes are much larger than the substrates they act on, and only a small portion of the enzyme (around 3–4 amino acids) is directly involved in catalysis. The region that contains these catalytic residues, binds the substrate, and then carries out the reaction is known as the active site. Enzymes can also contain sites that bind cofactors, which are needed for catalysis. Some enzymes also have binding sites for small molecules, which are often direct or indirect products or substrates of the reaction catalyzed. This binding can serve to increase or decrease the enzyme's activity, providing a means for feedback regulation.

Like all proteins, enzymes are made as long, linear chains of amino acids that fold to produce a three-dimensional product. Each unique amino acid sequence produces a specific structure, which has unique properties. Individual protein chains may sometimes group together to form a protein complex. Most enzymes can be denatured—that is, unfolded and inactivated—by heating or chemical denaturants, which disrupt the three-dimensional structure of the protein. Depending on the enzyme, denaturation may be reversible or irreversible.


Enzymes can act in several ways, all of which lower ΔG‡:

  •       Lowering the activation energy by creating an environment in which the transition state is stabilized (e.g. straining the shape of a substrate—by binding the transition-state conformation of the substrate/product molecules, the enzyme distorts the bound substrate(s) into their transition state form, thereby reducing the amount of energy required to complete the transition).
  •       Lowering the energy of the transition state, but without distorting the substrate, by creating an environment with the opposite charge distribution to that of the transition state.
  •       Providing an alternative pathway. For example, temporarily reacting with the substrate to form an intermediate ES complex, which would be impossible in the absence of the enzyme.
  •       Reducing the reaction entropy change by bringing substrates together in the correct orientation to react. Considering ΔH‡ alone overlooks this effect.

Interestingly, this entropic effect involves destabilization of the ground state. and its contribution to catalysis is relatively small.

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