Enzymes

The pancreas is an organ that creates enzymes necessary to properly digest starch, protein, and fat. Enzymes are large biological molecules responsible for the thousands of metabolic processes that sustain life.

They are highly selective catalysts, greatly…

The pancreas is an organ that creates enzymes necessary to properly digest starch, protein, and fat. Enzymes are large biological molecules responsible for the thousands of metabolic processes that sustain life.

They are highly selective catalysts, greatly accelerating both the rate and specificity of metabolic reactions, from the digestion of food to the synthesis of DNA. Most enzymes are proteins, although some catalytic RNA molecules have been identified. Enzymes adopt a specific three-dimensional structure, and may employ organic (e.g. biotin) and inorganic (e.g. magnesium ion) cofactors to assist in catalysis. They serve a wide variety of functions inside living organisms and are indispensable for signal transduction and cell regulation, often via kinases and phosphatases.

Enzymes such as amylases and proteases break down large molecules (starch or proteins, respectively) into smaller ones, so they can be absorbed by the intestines. Starch molecules, for example, are too large to be absorbed from the intestine, but enzymes hydrolyze the starch chains into smaller molecules such as maltose and eventually glucose, which can then be absorbed. Different enzymes digest different food substances. In ruminants, which have herbivorous diets, microorganisms in the gut produce another enzyme, cellulase, to break down the cellulose cell walls of plant fiber. Since the tight control of enzyme activity is essential for homeostasis, any malfunction (mutation, overproduction, underproduction or deletion) of a single critical enzyme can lead to a genetic disease. The importance of enzymes is shown by the fact that a lethal illness can be caused by the malfunction of just one type of enzyme out of the thousands of types present in our bodies.

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