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Discovering chemistry
Discovering chemistry

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2 Steric effects in enzymes

Enzymes are protein molecules that facilitate vital biological reactions.

They can do this because their molecular surfaces contain active sites to which the molecules participating in the reaction (known as substrates) can become temporarily bound.

The active sites are crevices in the enzyme surface, often of a complicated shape. The substrate has the precise shape required to fit the opening, and potential competitors that lack this shape are excluded (Figure 4). The need for the substrate to bind to the enzyme surface will often weaken other bonds within the substrate itself, encouraging the changes that the enzyme facilitates.

This diagram shows a model for enzyme action.
Figure 4 A model for enzyme action: only one of the three molecules has the shape required to fit the cavity on the enzyme surface; the other two are excluded