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 Home Products know Enzymes What Are Enzymes?

What are Enzymes?

Enzymes are proteins and biocatalyst

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 simple sugars.

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 applications.

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 sustainable environment

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 into nature.

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 applications

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 applications.


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