WHAT ARE ENZYMES?
Enzymes are large proteins and, like other proteins, they are produced in living cells of plants, animals
and microorganisms. All living organisms require enzymes for growth and for the production and
utilization of energy which is essential for life.
WHAT IS THE FUNCTION OF ENZYMES?
In the living cell, enzymes act as catalysts to speed up the chemical reactions which control life
processes. In industrial processes, they can be used to catalyze desired reactions, such as clotting
curds in cheese production and converting starch to corn syrup. Enzymes speed up the breakdown or
synthesis of organic compounds such as carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Enzymes are highly
specialized proteins that are classified by the type of reaction they catalyze. For example, in the
human digestive tract there are proteases, carbohydrases, and lipases that break down proteins,
carbohydrates and fats, respectively, into smaller substances that can be absorbed into the
ARE ENZYMES LIVING ORGANISMS?
While enzymes are produced by living organisms, they are not living substances.
HOW ARE ENZYME PREPARATIONS USED COMMERCIALLY?
Enzyme preparations have been used in the manufacture of foods and in industrial processes for many
years. In fact, rennet has been used in cheese manufacturing since biblical times. Enzyme
preparations have a long history of being used in the production of foods, such as in the dairy, wine,
brewing and distilling, starch, and baking industries. Since the early 1900s, some enzyme
preparations have been known to enhance cleaning action. They were first widely introduced into
detergent formulations in the 1960s for this purpose. Enzyme preparations are also used as diagnostic
reagents and in the pharmaceutical, tanning, textiles and paper industries.
HOW ARE ENZYMES PRODUCED FOR COMMERCIAL USE?
Commercial enzymes are produced from the fermentation of specially selected nonpathogenic,
nontoxigenic strains of microorganisms or extracted and purified from plant or animal sources.
Typically, the enzyme preparation does not contain the production microorganism. Enzyme products
are available in a variety of physical forms: Liquids, slurries, granules and powders.