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How do enzymes work?
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| Words: 3500 | Submitted: 30-Mar-2008
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Description Many chemical reactions can be speeded up by substances called
catalysts. A catalyst increases the rate of a chemical
reaction, but can be recovered chemically unchanged at the end
of the reaction. Living things are extraordinarily complex and
a vast number of chemical reactions occur in all living cells.
The catalysts that enable chemical reactions to occur in
living cells are called enymes. Without enzymes, the chemistry
performed by living cells, called metabolism, would happen at
too slow a rate for the organism to stay alive.
Enzymes are proteins, which themselves are long chains
(polymers) of amino acids. These amino acids tangle themselves
up into a ball shape, and hence most enzymes are globular
proteins. The tangling is not random but is dependent on the
nature of the amino acids that make up the protein, and how
they interact with one another.
There are many hundreds of different enzymes, and each enzyme
is specific for the substrate on which it acts. The substrate
is the substance that is present at the beginning of the
reaction. The substance which is made by the enzyme is called
the product. For example, the digestive enzyme amylase, which
is found in saliva, acts on the substrate starch to make
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