When we eat a lot of food, you know it gets digested. But how does it happen? Our stomach contains a powerful acid that dissolves the food, and it is strong enough to even dissolve metals. Shocking isn’t it!
Now twist over here is that this acid is not what ultimately breaks down the food, it’s actually very small and unique molecules called as enzymes that do the job. Strangely, these enzymes find the stomach acid a cozy place to work in.
Let’s take a closer look at them.
Enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical processes like the one we discussed above(digestion). Without them, reactions can occur, but they would be too slow and our body would not be able to cope up.
FUN FACT: Even though the enzymes help in the chemical reactions, they do not participate in one. So, the enzyme would remain the same before and after the chemical reactions/processes!!
There are numerous enzymes and they come in various shapes and sizes. They are present in a lot of body parts.
For example, the enzyme which helps digest food is called pepsin and it digests the proteins. Can you name a protein-rich food? Another enzyme is amylase present in our mouth which breaks down starch. Can you name a starch-rich food?
Certain enzymes are also present in our cells. That’s right! They are super microscopic. These particular enzymes help in controlling cell activity and defend them from invasions by microbes like bacteria and viruses.
Though enzymes appear very different, they have a few characteristics in common:
- Every enzyme has an active site. The enzymes also have a groove called as the active site, where the molecules they act on called as substrates are captured and made to undergo a reaction. The substrates are either broken apart or combined to form products. For example, the starch in your bread is broken down to simple glucose which is then absorbed by the body. This glucose is used up as energy.
- Just like jigsaw puzzles, where a piece fits perfectly only with a certain other piece, enzymes are very specific. Each enzyme can only bind to one type of substrate. For example, the enzyme lipase breaks down fats ONLY. Other molecules like glucose cannot be broken by this.
- Enzymes are recycled. As mentioned above, their structure remains the same during a reaction, and hence after acting on one substrate, they can move on to another substrate immediately. This way, only a small amount of enzyme is needed to speed up thousands of reactions.
FUN FACT: Having a hard time figuring out if a certain word is an enzyme? If the word ends in ase, it’s an enzyme !!
Let’s have a check for understanding:
Q1. Which of these is NOT an enzyme?
a)pepsin b)glucose c)lipase d)none of the above
Q2. Most enzymes are made up of
a)proteins b)starch c)fat d)none of the above
Q3.Enzymes are vital for our survival
Q4. Enzymes ___ the chemical reactions in our body.
a)fasten b)slow down c)not enough information provided
Q5. Define active site.