Active Site (Molecular Biology)

The folding of a polypeptide chain that produces the final protein structure of an enzyme also leads to formation of the active site. From X-ray crystallography studies, it is apparent that the active site of an enzyme is a groove, cleft, or pocket that has access to the solvent and forms only a small part of the total solvent-accessible surface of the protein. The relatively large sizes of enzymes are undoubtedly due to the need to obtain, at the active site, the correct spatial relationships of the amino acid residues that are involved in binding of substrates, catalysis, and the release of products, as well as for any conformational changes associated with these steps. The binding of substrates or inhibitors at the active site pocket of an enzyme involves matching up of the nonpolar groups of the substrate with the nonpolar side-chains of amino acid residues, hydrogen bonding between the polar appropriate groups on the substrate with the backbone NH and CO groups within the active site, and even salt bridge formation. For substrates, these initial interactions are followed by the conformational changes that lead to the formation of the transition-state complex (see Transition State Analogue) and the chemistry for catalyzing the reaction brought about by reactive groups with the correct alignments. These may be the acidic, basic, and nucleophilic groups of the protein component of the enzyme, or the electrophilic groups of a prosthetic group (see Coenzyme, Cofactor).

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