You may remember from a high school or college chemistry lab that when you performed an experiment using two or more chemicals, another chemical was often added to help the reaction to take place or to speed it up. That chemical was an enzyme. Enzymes are proteins and it is their job to regulate and accelerate most chemical reactions that occur in living things. Life itself would be impossible without enzymes.
Enzymes are called catalysts, meaning they speed up the rate of a reaction between two or more chemicals. A given chemical reaction between two chemicals may take place without an enzyme, but the rate of the reaction may be incredibly slow. It might take hours, days, weeks, or even years to happen. This would be simply unacceptable, as the proper functioning of our body may require that same chemical reaction to take place numerous times in a fraction of a second. Enzymes speed up the rate at which chemical reactions occur. Another important feature of enzymes is that they are extremely specific. Most enzymes will work on only one reaction, just as a key will fit into one lock.
Enzymes are special proteins that speed up and regulate chemical reactions.
Is It Possible for Chemical Reactions to Be Linked Together?
In various situations in our body, many chemical reactions actually occur in series. Here, the product(s) of one chemical reaction become reactants in the next chemical reaction and so on. These reaction series are more commonly referred to as pathways, as depicted in Figure 1.4. We will discuss many pathways throughout our exploration.
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