Enzyme Regulation: Mechanisms & Types

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  • 0:01 Enzymes & Genetic Regulation
  • 1:27 Compartmentalization
  • 2:05 Substrate Concentration
  • 3:46 Covalent & Allosteric…
  • 5:19 Inhibition
  • 6:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Darla Reed

Darla has taught undergraduate Enzyme Kinetics and has a doctorate in Basic Medical Science

This lesson reviews what an enzyme is and its functions. It further discusses mechanisms that regulate enzymes as well as different types of enzyme regulation and concludes with a short quiz.

Enzymes

Ever wondered how meals you eat are digested, or how that paper cut heals? Part of the answer lies within enzymes. Enzymes are proteins that catalyze (speed up) chemical reactions. They help digest food and heal wounds. They play big roles in respiration, making proteins, and DNA replication. Enzymes function by binding to molecules called substrates to create products. These products are used by the cell in various ways, including as substrates in other reactions.

A car helps you get from place to place faster than walking. Now, imagine a car on the road with a monkey at the wheel; the consequences aren't good. The same is true for enzymes when they aren't regulated. Since enzymes are important in speeding up reactions and play major roles in cellular function, it is essential to regulate their activity.

Genetic Regulation

The cell has several mechanisms to regulate enzyme activity. One mechanism is genetic regulation. Just as the number of cars produced controls how many are on the roads, the cell can regulate enzymes by controlling their production. If there's a sudden stop of Jeep production by manufacturers, the number of Jeeps being bought and used will decrease. Cells can target specific enzymes in a similar way through induction (increasing production) or repression (stopping production) of the gene producing that enzyme.

Compartmentalization

A second regulatory mechanism is compartmentalization. You have a glove compartment in your car that you use to keep various items. You may also have other compartments to hold music, equipment, sunglasses etc. Cells have their own compartments separated by membranes that restrict the movement of cellular components. Enzymes are regulated by those membranes.

For example, lysosomes are membrane-bound organelles that assist in breaking down cellular material. Enzymes inside lysosomes are bound by the membrane to stay inside the lysosome. They can't leave and can only function inside the lysosome.

Substrate Concentration

Substrate concentration is another way enzymes are regulated. Your car won't go anywhere without gas. Enzymes won't be able to do their work without substrates. By controlling the amount of substrates available, a cell can effectively regulate enzyme activity.

A fourth way enzymes can be regulated is through degradation. If you take apart a car, it won't work anymore. Degradation is the breakdown of a molecule. Cells have mechanisms in place that can break down (degrade) enzymes or substrates. By degrading either, cells can regulate enzyme activity.

Alteration of Environmental Factors

Yet another mechanism of regulation is through alteration of environmental factors. Just as icy roads, foggy conditions, or clear skies will change driving conditions, enzymes have certain environments where they function best. Enzymes have particular temperature and pH ranges (levels of hydrogen ions determining acidity) that control their activity. Altering the temperature or pH level will alter the function of the enzyme.

Enzymes also have inactive forms called zymogens (proenzymes). Potential drivers need to have a license before they can drive a car legally. Zymogens require a chemical modification in order to become active. Often this modification is performed by other enzymes—think of how someone has to teach you how to drive. Once modified, the enzyme is active.

Controlling production and chemical modification of zymogens is another way cells regulate enzyme activity. Lastly, the activation or inhibition of the enzyme itself is another mechanism of enzyme regulation.

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