Natures Chemical Workforce

What is an Enzyme?

What is a Protein?

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A protein, also known as a polypeptide, is a complex chain of organic compounds called Amino Acids. Proteins provide structure, function, and regulation of both animal and plant cells.
Image courtesy of www.bio.mtu.edu

Enzymes are Proteins

Enzymes are the proteins that provide function to the cell. Enzymes are catalysts: they speed up chemical reactions.

Image courtesy of www.chem4kids.com

Enzymes and Reactions
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Enzymes work on specific compounds. The structure of an enzyme makes it fit with only certain compounds, like a lock and key.

•The substrate is the compound that the enzyme is working with. •The active site is the point on the enzyme that binds to the substrate.

Image courtesy of www.chemistry.wustl.edu

Why do we need Enzymes?
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Chemical reactions are how cells function. Chemical reactions take time. They are usually very slow. For cells to work properly, many chemical reactions must happen in a short time. Enzymes catalyze: they speed up the chemical reactions (by lowering the activation energy). Enzymes make reactions happen up to millions of times faster.

What affects Enzyme function?
Every enzyme has a small optimal pH range. Higher or lower pH disrupts chemical bonds, changing the shape of the enzyme.

Environments hotter than the enzyme’s optimal temperature cause the enzyme to denature, or break down.

Images courtesy of www.chemsoc.org

Major types of Enzymes
Metabolic, Digestive, and Food

Metabolic Enzymes

Metabolic Enzymes are responsible for catalyzing biochemical reactions required to maintain life. They exist throughout the entire body. There are two categories of metabolic enzymes:

Catabolic – Enzymes that break down large molecules, either providing raw building materials for new compounds or producing pure waste while releasing energy. Anabolic – Enzymes that construct complex molecules from smaller pieces, such as proteins from amino acids.

Digestive Enzymes

Digestive Enzymes are catabolic enzymes responsible for breaking down food into nutrients and energy. They occur primarily in mouth, stomach, and small intestine. They are secreted by salivary glands, glands in the stomach, glands in the small intestine, and the pancreas – the largest producer of digestive enzymes in the body.

Treatment with Digestive Enzymes
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Enzyme deficiency in the digestive tract can lead to many problems. Common symptoms that are treated with enzyme supplements:
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Flatulence Heartburn Diarrhea Intestinal spasms Inflammation Constipation Acid reflux Peptic ulcers Indigestion

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Food Enzymes

Food Enzymes come from eating raw foods. They are responsible for starting and assisting the digestion process. Food Enzymes benefit the body by lowering strain on the body’s own enzyme store, leaving the body’s natural enzymes available for later work.

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Raw foods contain large amounts of enzymes, but heating food even the slightest amount destroys virtually all enzymes contained. Because most food eaten today is cooked, people develop a serious deficit, causing the body to work overtime to produce enough enzymes to keep up with the things we eat and drink (McDonalds takes a lot of work to digest). Enzyme deficits can be remedied with enzymes in pill or tablet form, available in many over-the-counter diet supplements (e.g., Co-enzyme Q10).

Applications of Enzymes
How do we use enzymes today?

Industrial Applications

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Brewing – catabolic enzymes from barley produce sugar, amino acids, and peptides that are used by yeast in fermentation. Paper Industry – cellulases smooth paper fibers and promote ink removal. Detergent – lipases remove fatty and oily stains. Rubber – catalase breaks peroxide into oxygen to convert latex to foam. Molecular Biology – restriction endonuclease, DNA ligase, and polymerases are used in genetic engineering, pharmacology, agriculture, and medicine.


Enzymes in a Nutshell

Enzymes are required to sustain life. Enzymes are valuable to chemists as tools to speed reactions and manipulate chemicals.

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