Question: what are enzymes?


  1. Hi blahblah,
    ‘Enzymes’ are the name given to proteins that are found in living things which help chemical reactions to occur under natural, biological conditions.
    For us to carry out chemical reactions in the lab, we often have to use conditions that are quite harsh, such as very high temperatures or using dangerous chemicals. You might have learnt about substances called ‘catalysts’ – these are chemicals that we can add to our chemical reactions to help them occur faster without having to use such harsh conditions. ‘Catalysts’ don’t actually get used up themselves in this process and so can be recovered. Enzymes are biological catalysts. You can think of enzymes as being little machines that help chemical reactions to occur inside our bodies (or inside things like plants, bacteria, fungi) under much milder conditions (such as body temperature, which is 37 degrees C for humans) and using only the substances that are already inside our body (or the plant, bacteria, fungi etc). Enzymes take a chemical (which is called a ‘substrate’) and carry out a reaction on it to form a different chemical (the ‘product’). The part of the enzyme where the reaction happens is called the enzyme’s ‘active site’.
    There are many different types of enzymes found in nature which are grouped together (into groups known as families) depending on what they do (like what kind of reactions they carry out or what kind of substrates they work on). Enzymes are involved in many different important processes in all kinds of organisms, including humans. Let me know if you’d like to know more. 🙂