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  • Enzymes are biomolecules that catalyze (i.e. increase the rates of) chemical reactions.

  • Almost all enzymes are proteins. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process are called substrates, and the enzyme converts them into different molecules, the products.

  • Enzymes are generally globular proteins and range from just 62 amino acid residues in size, for the monomer of 4-oxalocrotonate tautomerase, to over 2,500 residues in the animal fatty acid synthase.


  • An enzyme-controlled reaction depends on substrate molecules fitting into the active site of the enzyme. Environmental factors which alter the shape of the active site will therefore alter the rate of the reaction. These factors include high temperatures, variations in pH and the presence of inhibitors.

  • Enzymes are usually very specific as to which reactions they catalyze and the substrates that are involved in these reactions. Complementary shape, charge and hydrophilic/hydrophobic characteristics of enzymes and substrates are responsible for this specificity. Enzymes can also show impressive levels of stereospecificity, regioselectivity and chemoselectivity.


  • Enzymes have been used in the pulp and paper industry to soften wood fibres, improve drainage, and present alternatives to chemical bleaching.

  • Enzymes are used to treat and modify fibres, particularly during textile processing and in caring for textiles.

  • Enzymes are frequently used in laundry detergents.

  • Enzymes may be used to help produce fuels from renewable sources of biomass. Such enzymes include cellulases, which convert cellulose fibres from feedstocks like corn into sugars.


  • US enzymes demand will grow 6.9 percent annually through 2010, based on strong gains in key markets such as animal feed, biocatalysts, pharmaceuticals and starch processing.

  • Pharmaceuticals will remain the largest market and one of the fastest growing. The most rapid growth will occur in animal feed additives, led by phytase.

  • The United States is the largest market for enzymes, accounting for nearly 40% of the global market. However, China, India, South Korea and Taiwan might emerge as important markets for increased enzyme demand for food, beverage and other products. By 2013, the total value of the food and beverage enzyme market is estimated to reach $320 million.

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