NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Berg JM, Tymoczko JL, Stryer L. Biochemistry. 5th edition. New York: W H Freeman; 2002.

  • By agreement with the publisher, this book is accessible by the search feature, but cannot be browsed.
Cover of Biochemistry

Biochemistry. 5th edition.

Show details

Section 8.1Enzymes Are Powerful and Highly Specific Catalysts

Enzymes accelerate reactions by factors of as much as a million or more (Table 8.1). Indeed, most reactions in biological systems do not take place at perceptible rates in the absence of enzymes. Even a reaction as simple as the hydration of carbon dioxide is catalyzed by an enzyme—namely, carbonic anhydrase (Section 9.2). The transfer of CO2 from the tissues into the blood and then to the alveolar air would be less complete in the absence of this enzyme. In fact, carbonic anhydrase is one of the fastest enzymes known. Each enzyme molecule can hydrate 106 molecules of CO2 per second. This catalyzed reaction is 107 times as fast as the uncatalyzed one. We will consider the mechanism of carbonic anhydrase catalysis in Chapter 9. Enzymes are highly specific both in the reactions that they catalyze and in their choice of reactants, which are called substrates. An enzyme usually catalyzes a single chemical reaction or a set of closely related reactions. Side reactions leading to the wasteful formation of by-products are rare in enzyme-catalyzed reactions, in contrast with uncatalyzed ones.

Table 8.1. Rate enhancement by selected enzymes.

Table 8.1

Rate enhancement by selected enzymes.

Image ch8fu2.jpg

Let us consider proteolytic enzymes as an example. In vivo, these enzymes catalyze proteolysis, the hydrolysis of a peptide bond.

Image ch8fu3.jpg

Most proteolytic enzymes also catalyze a different but related reaction in vitro—namely, the hydrolysis of an ester bond. Such reactions are more easily monitored than is proteolysis and are useful in experimental investigations of these enzymes (Section 9.1.2).

Image ch8fu4.jpg

Proteolytic enzymes differ markedly in their degree of substrate specificity. Subtilisin, which is found in certain bacteria, is quite undiscriminating: it will cleave any peptide bond with little regard to the identity of the adjacent side chains. Trypsin, a digestive enzyme, is quite specific and catalyzes the splitting of peptide bonds only on the carboxyl side of lysine and arginine residues (Figure 8.1A). Thrombin, an enzyme that participates in blood clotting, is even more specific than trypsin. It catalyzes the hydrolysis of Arg-Gly bonds in particular peptide sequences only (Figure 8.1B).

Figure 8.1. Enzyme Specificity.

Figure 8.1

Enzyme Specificity. (A) Trypsin cleaves on the carboxyl side of arginine and lysine residues, whereas (B) thrombin cleaves Arg-Gly bonds in particular sequences specifically.

DNA polymerase I, a template-directed enzyme (Section 27.2), is another highly specific catalyst. It adds nucleotides to a DNA strand that is being synthesized, in a sequence determined by the sequence of nucleotides in another DNA strand that serves as a template. DNA polymerase I is remarkably precise in carrying out the instructions given by the template. It inserts the wrong nucleotide into a new DNA strand less than one in a million times.

The specificity of an enzyme is due to the precise interaction of the substrate with the enzyme. This precision is a result of the intricate three-dimensional structure of the enzyme protein.

8.1.1. Many Enzymes Require Cofactors for Activity

The catalytic activity of many enzymes depends on the presence of small molecules termed cofactors, although the precise role varies with the cofactor and the enzyme. Such an enzyme without its cofactor is referred to as an apoenzyme; the complete, catalytically active enzyme is called a holoenzyme.

Image ch8e1.jpg
Cofactors can be subdivided into two groups: metals and small organic molecules (Table 8.2). The enzyme carbonic anhydrase, for example, requires Zn2+ for its activity (Section 9.2.1). Glycogen phosphorylase (Section 21.1.5), which mobilizes glycogen for energy, requires the small organic molecule pyridoxal phosphate (PLP).

Table 8.2. Enzyme cofactors.

Table 8.2

Enzyme cofactors.

Cofactors that are small organic molecules are called coenzymes. Often derived from vitamins, coenzymes can be either tightly or loosely bound to the enzyme. If tightly bound, they are called prosthetic groups. Loosely associated coenzymes are more like cosubstrates because they bind to and are released from the enzyme just as substrates and products are. The use of the same coenzyme by a variety of enzymes and their source in vitamins sets coenzymes apart from normal substrates, however. Enzymes that use the same coenzyme are usually mechanistically similar. In Chapter 9, we will examine the mechanistic importance of cofactors to enzyme activity. A more detailed discussion of coenzyme vitamins can be found in Section 8.6.

8.1.2. Enzymes May Transform Energy from One Form into Another

In many biochemical reactions, the energy of the reactants is converted with high efficiency into a different form. For example, in photosynthesis, light energy is converted into chemical-bond energy through an ion gradient. In mitochondria, the free energy contained in small molecules derived from food is converted first into the free energy of an ion gradient and then into a different currency, the free energy of adenosine triphosphate. Enzymes may then use the chemical-bond energy of ATP in many ways. The enzyme myosin converts the energy of ATP into the mechanical energy of contracting muscles. Pumps in the membranes of cells and organelles, which can be thought of as enzymes that move substrates rather than chemically altering them, create chemical and electrical gradients by using the energy of ATP to transport molecules and ions (Figure 8.2). The molecular mechanisms of these energy-transducing enzymes are being unraveled. We will see in subsequent chapters how unidirectional cycles of discrete steps—binding, chemical transformation, and release—lead to the conversion of one form of energy into another.

Figure 8.2. An Energy-Transforming Enzyme.

Figure 8.2

An Energy-Transforming Enzyme. Ca2+ ATPase uses the energy of ATP hydrolysis to transport Ca2+ across the membrane, generating a Ca2+ gradient.

8.1.3. Enzymes Are Classified on the Basis of the Types of Reactions That They Catalyze

Many enzymes have common names that provide little information about the reactions that they catalyze. For example, a proteolytic enzyme secreted by the pancreas is called trypsin. Most other enzymes are named for their substrates and for the reactions that they catalyze, with the suffix “ase” added. Thus, an ATPase is an enzyme that breaks down ATP, whereas ATP synthase is an enzyme that synthesizes ATP.

To bring some consistency to the classification of enzymes, in 1964 the International Union of Biochemistry established an Enzyme Commission to develop a nomenclature for enzymes. Reactions were divided into six major groups numbered 1 through 6 (Table 8.3). These groups were subdivided and further subdivided, so that a four-digit number preceded by the letters EC for Enzyme Commission could precisely identify all enzymes.

Table 8.3. Six major classes of enzymes.

Table 8.3

Six major classes of enzymes.

Consider as an example nucleoside monophosphate (NMP) kinase, an enzyme that we will examine in detail in the next chapter (Section 9.4). It catalyzes the following reaction:

Image ch8e2.jpg

NMP kinase transfers a phosphoryl group from ATP to NMP to form a nucleoside diphosphate (NDP) and ADP. Consequently, it is a transferase, or member of group 2. Many groups in addition to phosphoryl groups, such as sugars and carbon units, can be transferred. Transferases that shift a phosphoryl group are designated 2.7. Various functional groups can accept the phosphoryl group. If a phosphate is the acceptor, the transferase is designated 2.7.4. The final number designates the acceptor more precisely. In regard to NMP kinase, a nucleoside monophosphate is the acceptor, and the enzyme's designation is EC Although the common names are used routinely, the classification number is used when the precise identity of the enzyme might be ambiguous.

By agreement with the publisher, this book is accessible by the search feature, but cannot be browsed.

Copyright © 2002, W. H. Freeman and Company.
Bookshelf ID: NBK22380


  • Cite this Page
  • Disable Glossary Links

Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...