Enzymes are biological molecules that catalyze or accelerate chemical reactions in living organisms. They are typically proteins, although some RNA molecules, called ribozymes, also have catalytic activity. Enzymes play a crucial role in many physiological processes, including digestion, metabolism, and DNA replication.
Enzymes work by lowering the activation energy needed for a chemical reaction to occur, thus increasing the rate of the reaction. They achieve this by binding to the reactant molecules, known as substrates, and stabilizing the transition state of the reaction, making it easier for the reaction to occur.
Enzymes are highly specific in their catalytic activity, meaning that each enzyme is designed to catalyze a specific reaction or group of reactions. This specificity is due to the unique three-dimensional shape of the enzyme, which allows it to bind to specific substrates in a lock-and-key fashion.
Enzymes can be found in all living organisms, from bacteria to plants and animals, and are involved in a wide range of biochemical processes. For example, digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines break down food molecules into smaller nutrients that can be absorbed by the body, while enzymes in the liver and kidneys detoxify harmful substances and drugs.
Enzymes also have many industrial applications. They are used in the production of food, beverages, and pharmaceuticals, as well as in the manufacturing of paper, textiles, and detergents. Enzymes are preferred over traditional chemical catalysts in many industrial processes because they are more efficient, specific, and environmentally friendly.