Enzymes are biological catalysts present in all cells enabling chemical reactions to proceed at a fast enough rate so as to sustain life. Thus, enzymes are essential to almost all molecular biology processes, not only within our bodies, but also those carried out in the lab, ranging from purification to gene editing and sequencing.
The basics of enzymes
Enzymes lower the activation energy of a reaction, thus accelerating the reaction rate of the conversion of substrate to product. The increased rate can be by a factor of several million and without this increased reaction rate, life would not be able to be sustained here on Earth.
Most enzymes are proteins, but there are a few exceptions where RNA molecules can act as catalysts for reactions.
Since the enzyme is a catalyst, it is not consumed during the reaction. Thus, decreased reaction rates observed over time is not due to the enzyme concentration decreasing, but a combination of reduced availability of substrates and an accumulation of product.
Enzymes often work within very narrow pH and temperature ranges. Hence, it is essential that you use the correct buffers and optimal temperature ranges given in the protocol that is supplied with the enzyme.
Enzymes can lower the activation energy (ΔG‡, Gibbs free energy) of a reaction in several ways.
Stabilization of the transition state
Providing alternative pathways
Destabilization of the substrate ground state
The nomenclature of enzymes is determined by the substrate that is used in the reaction and with the addition of the suffix -ase. One example of this would be the alcohol-metabolizing enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase.
Generally, enzymes are divided into the following groups:
Oxidoreductases: catalyze oxidation/reduction reactions
Ligases: can join molecules with covalent bonds
Transferases: can transfer functional groups, such as polymerases
Isomerases: can catalyze isomerization changes
Hydrolases: catalyze the hydrolysis of various bonds, including restriction enzymes
Lyases: cleave various bonds (not hydrolysis and oxidation)
Isozymes is the name given to enzymes that are different, but are catalyzing the same chemical reaction.
Our Restriction Enzyme Troubleshoot is useful for solving any potential problems.
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