What are Enzymes?
Enzymes are proteins and
Enzymes, like other proteins, consist of long chains of amino
acids held together by peptide bonds. They are present in all
living cells, where they perform a vital function by controlling
the metabolic processes, whereby nutrients are converted into
energy and new cells. Moreover, enzymes take part in the breakdown
of food materials into simpler compounds. As commonly known, enzymes
are found in the digestive tract where pepsin, trypsin and peptidases
break down proteins into amino acids, lipases split fats into
glycerol and fatty acids, and amylases break down starch into
Enzymes are biocatalyst, and by their mere presence, and without
being consumed in the process, enzymes can speed up chemical processes
that would otherwise run very slowly. After the reaction is complete,
the enzyme is released again, ready to start another reaction.
In principle, this could go on forever, but in practically most
catalysts have a limited stability, and over a period of time
they lose, their activity and are not usable again. Generally,
most enzymes are used only once and discarded after; they have
done their job.
Enzymes are specific and
work in mild conditions
Enzymes are very specific in comparison to inorganic catalysts
such as acids, bases, metals and metal oxides. Enzyme can break
down particular compounds. In some cases, their action is limited
to specific bonds in the compounds with which, they react. The
molecule(s) that an enzyme acts on is known as its substrate(s),
which is converted into a product or products. A part of large
enzyme molecule will reversibly bind to the substrate(s) and then
a specialised part(s) of the enzyme will catalyse the specific
change necessary to change the substrate into a product. For each
type of reaction in a cell there is a different enzyme and they
are classified into six broad categories namely hydrolytic, oxidising
and reducing, synthesising, transferring, lytic and isomerising.
During industrial process, the specific action of enzymes allows
high yields to be obtained with a minimum of unwanted by-products.
Enzymes can work at atmospheric pressure and in mild conditions
with respect to temperature and acidity (pH). Most enzymes function
optimally at a temperature of 30?C-70?C and at pH values, which
are near the neutral point (pH 7). Now-a-days, special enzymes
have been developed that work at higher temperatures for specific
Enzyme processes are potentially energy saving and save investing
in special equipment resistant to heat, pressure or corrosion.
Enzymes, due to their efficiency, specific action, the mild conditions
in which they work and their high biodegradability, they are very
well suited for a wide range of industrial applications.
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Enzymes are part of a
As mentioned earlier, enzymes are present in all biological systems.
They come from natural systems, and when they are degraded the
amino acids of which they are made can be readily absorbed back
Enzymes work only on renewable raw materials. Fruit, cereals,
milk, fats, meat, cotton, leather and wood are some typical candidates
for enzymatic conversion in industry. Both the usable products
and the waste of most enzymatic reactions are non-toxic and readily
broken down. Finally, industrial enzymes can be produced in an
ecologically sound way where the waste sludge is recycled as fertiliser.
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Enzymes and industrial
Maps produces industrial enzymes originating from microorganisms
in the soil. Microorganisms are usually bacteria, fungi or yeast.
One microorganism contains over 1,000 different enzymes. A long
period of trial and error in the laboratory is needed to isolate
the best microorganism for producing a particular type of enzyme.
When the right microorganism has been found, it has to be modified
so that it is capable of producing the desired enzyme at high
yields. Then the microorganism is 'grown' in trays or huge fermentation
tanks where it produces the desired enzyme. With the latest technological
advancements of fermenting microorganisms, it possible to produce
enzymes economically and in virtually unlimited quantities.
The end product of fermentation is a broth from which the enzymes
are extracted. After this, the remaining fermentation broth is
centrifuged or filtered to remove all solid particles. The resulting
biomass, or sludge in everyday language, contains the residues
of microorganisms and raw materials, which can be a very good
natural fertiliser. The enzymes are then, used for various industrial