What Are Enzymes?

Enzymes are assistants or catalysts in biology that defines a living thing from an inanimate object. It helps the living organism complete the chemical reactions needed for survival. Enzymes are made of various proteins. These proteins drive the chemical reaction needed for a certain nutrient or action. It’s important to mention not all proteins are considered enzymes. Enzymes either start the chemical reaction or speed up the process.

Enzymes- a fun introduction

Groups of Proteins in the Human Body
Although there are various kinds of proteins, they fit into two general categories, or groups:

• Structural proteins: Structural proteins make up the main type of enzymes in the body. The most-well known structural proteins are known as collagen. Collagen is found in bones, ligaments, tendons, nails and hair.
• Biological proteins: Biologically active proteins are considered the catalyst for the biochemical reactions in cell production.

Every part of the body is made of proteins. Whether it’s nerve fiber, muscle or hormone, it’s made of enzymes. For example, approximately 80 percent of dry weight muscle is made up of proteins. The dry weight of skin has about 70 percent of proteins and 90 percent of proteins make up blood’s dry weight.

How Enzymes Look
Enzymes consists of hundreds to millions of amino acids which resemble pearls on a string. It’s important to note every enzyme doesn’t look like a long string. Some are folded thousands of times or coiled. Whether it’s a coil, string, or folded in layers, they are three-dimensional structures. Each amino acid connects to the next chemical bond in the chain.

The majority of the amino acids are made of only 20 types of amino acids. The function and structure of enzymes actually determine the exact order of the amino acids. This means that amino acid sequences are unique. No two enzymes are alike. The uniqueness determine is determined by the genes located in cells.

Even a slight change in the three-dimensional structure can have a huge impact. Any time one or more of the acids are changed, replaced or missing, the entire sequence will act differently or not at all. For example, the changed enzyme will work on different biological molecules.

How Enzymes Work
Enzymes are just like huge robots making cars on an assembly line. Some of the giant robots are responsible for lifting the chassis, or framework, of the vehicle. Other robots lift the doors. While some of the huge robots are only responsible for inserting bolts in the frame. The protein inside cells work the same way.

In the human body, enzymes are considered nature’s tools because they cut food into tiny particles and convert them into energy used in the body. The process beings in a person’s mouth. The amylase enzymes the food. Different enzymes in the mouth are also responsible for continuously breaking down the food a person consumes. The enzymes keep breaking down the food as it travels to the stomach and into the intestines. Breaking down the food is vital to converting it into energy. Without needed enzymes, a person would die even if the food was digested.

To find out how to improve the amount of healthy bacteria and enzymes in the intestines, read in this article.

In plants, the enzyme and molecules are in the same area. The enzyme works by attaching itself to the molecule while in that special area referred to as an active site. This part of the process is called the enzyme-substrate complex. Keep in mind, the amino acids in the enzyme makes it work on specific molecules. So the active site fits around both the molecule and enzyme so the next part of the process can begin.

Catalysis occurs when the molecule is changed. The molecule could be combined with another molecule or broken down to make something new. The purpose is to either build a new chemical bond or break it apart. Once done, the enzyme-product complex is finished.

The last part of the process occurs when the enzyme releases the molecule. The enzyme returns to its original shape prior to working on another molecule.

Enzymes are the building blocks living organisms need to stay alive and grow. Plants, humans, animals, and microorganisms are all have enzymes. In the human body, the main function of enzymes is to transport molecules in and out of the body’s cells. The absence of enzymes can cause many types of diseases. One disease is called phenylketonuria, or PKU. It causes mental retardation and/or death in an infant. Tay-Sachs is another disease which is the result of enzyme deficiency. Like PKU it does cause mental retardation. Other symptoms include paralysis and death when not properly treated during childhood.

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