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Simple Science

Biology: Enzymes and Metabolism

Welcome to Simple Science. Today I want to talk about some of the things that make our bodies run. The amazing and interesting facts that allow us to do what we do each and every day. 

Enzymes and Metabolism

Part 1: Enzymes

ENZYMES and METABOLISM!!! Sounds scary right?! Well it isn't really, its actually quite simple. Today we are going to start by looking at enzymes and next we will look at metabolism, and finally how they work together to help our bodies run.

I am going to start by giving you a little bit of background before we dive into what these really are and what they really do.

Enzymes are what we like to call a catalyst. A catalyst is something that works with the chemistry of our body to speed up a process. Enzymes in our body are vital to speeding up processes that we use to survive. There are five major processes in our body that enzymes help to run more efficiently:

  1. Metabolism
  2. DNA synthesis
  3. RNA synthesis
  4. Protein synthesis
  5. Digestion

Reduction of Activation Energy

You can see in these graphs, that as the enzyme is added the process significantly speeds up. Think of it like adding Mentos to Diet Coke. Once the enzyme is added to the reaction (catalyzed), you can see how quickly the process will change. Free energy is defined as the amount of energy that is the same as the energy needed to run a system or process. Meaning that, this is the energy we need to make something go.

When looking at free energy we need to learn a little bit about kinetics and thermodynamics. Kinetics is how fast a reaction reaches a stabilization point and thermodynamics means the total amount of energy that is stored in that reaction (reactants and products).

When the enzyme is added to the process, the amount of energy needed to start that process is greatly decreased! The ability for that reaction to reach equilibrium (stabilization) is much greater. So that means, it is far, far easier for our body to run these processes. 

Now you can see just how important enzymes are!!!!

Hopefully, you aren't confused! :) 

Controlling enzyme activity is where things start to get really interesting!!!

We have 3 different concepts that help to control enzyme activity:

  1. Feedback Inhibition
  2. Competitive Inhibition
  3. Non-Competitive Inhibition

Feedback inhibition is the simplest of them all. Whatever the final product is, is the reason that the pathway is shut off. A good example from our body is the first enzyme in Glycolysis (which we will talk about soon), hexokinase. This enzyme is inhibited by the product that it produces, glucose-6-phosphate. The end product, stops the start.

Competitive inhibition gets a little more complex. This occurs when there is an inhibitor that will compete with the substrate for the binding site. This means, in simpler terms, that there is an inhibitor will try and get to the site where the product wants to go, before the product arrives. If there is nowhere for the product to go, it will not be created. You can overcome this inhibition by adding more substrate (which is more space for a process or reaction to occur). 

Non-competitive inhibition is the final way to stop the production of an enzyme. An inhibitor binds itself to the allosteric site of an enzyme. The allosteric site is essentially the off switch. Once the switch is set to off, the enzyme can no longer speed up the process. This inhibition cannot be overcome by adding more substrate. 

Next, we are going to change the way you think about metabolism, one of the main reasons your body is able to function!  

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