All about enzymes
David Ackerley of Victoria University, Wellington, describes what enzymes do and how they work.
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Enzymes are proteins. Enzymes have many functions in our bodies. An important feature of enzymes is their ability to catalyse reactions without being used up in the process. Can you think of any enzymes and their uses?
David Ackerley (Victoria University, Wellington): An enzyme is something that carries out a chemical reaction and in our body, enzymes catalyse the reactions that keep us alive – the ability to breathe oxygen, to utilise that energy, to utilise the energy of our food, everything that keeps us going.
An enzyme is something that can make a reaction occur inside our body or inside a bacterial cell without itself being consumed in the process of that reaction. And so what it means is, once it’s finished catalysing that reaction, it can go off and catalyse another one exactly the same, and another and so on.
Enzymes can't just make any reaction at all happen – they can't make something that is energetically unfavourable occur – but what they can do is they can create a little microenvironment around the two molecules that are trying to react and they can change the conditions quite drastically relative to the rest of the cell. So they can really make it very, very easy for certain reactions to occur, or they can prevent other reactions from taking place.
- 05 December 2008
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- The University of Waikato