What are Enzymes, and How Are They Organized?

Enzymes are protein molecules that control biochemical reactions. They allow certain metabolic processes to take place that otherwise would not occur without their presence. Enzymes assist in converting one substance (called a substrate) into another substance. During this process, the enzyme itself is not consumed and is available to perform its function over and over.

The German physician William Friedrich was the first to use the term "enzyme". Since 1897, the term is generally used within the scientific realm to refer to all biocatalysts.

Structurally, all enzymes consist of chains of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids from which all protein are composed. It is the specific sequence and tridimensional nature of amino acids that determine the spatial structure and function of an enzyme.

Many enzymes also contain components that are not amino acids, but are critical to their proper function. These components are referred to as co-factors. An example of a co-factor could be a specific vitamin or mineral that helps the enzyme catalyze a particular reaction.

What are enzymes?

Enzymes may only exert their effect in a certain range of pH values and temperatures. They are very sensitive, and are typically destroyed to a large extent by the gastric acid within our stomachs. Active enzymes play a crucial role in supporting all immune system functions.