Regulation of Enzyme Activity

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Chapter: Biochemistry : Enzymes

The regulation of the reaction velocity of enzymes is essential if an organism is to coordinate its numerous metabolic processes.



The regulation of the reaction velocity of enzymes is essential if an organism is to coordinate its numerous metabolic processes. The rates of most enzymes are responsive to changes in substrate concentration, because the intracellular level of many substrates is in the range of the Km. Thus, an increase in substrate concentration prompts an increase in reaction rate, which tends to return the concentration of substrate toward normal. In addition, some enzymes with specialized regulatory functions respond to allosteric effectors and/or covalent modification or they show altered rates of enzyme synthesis (or degradation) when physiologic conditions are changed.


A. Regulation of allosteric enzymes


Allosteric enzymes are regulated by molecules called effectors that bind noncovalently at a site other than the active site. These enzymes are almost always composed of multiple subunits, and the regulatory (allosteric) site that binds the effector is distinct from the substrate-binding site and may be located on a subunit that is not itself catalytic. Effectors that inhibit enzyme activity are termed negative effectors, whereas those that increase enzyme activity are called positive effectors. Positive and negative effectors can affect the affinity of the enzyme for its substrate (K0.5), modify the maximal catalytic activity of the enzyme (Vmax), or both (Figure 5.16). [Note: Allosteric enzymes frequently catalyze the committed step early in a pathway.]

Figure 5.16 Effects of negative  positive effectors on an allosteric enzyme. A. Vmax is altered. B. The substrate concentration that gives half-maximal velocity (K0.5) is altered.


1. Homotropic effectors: When the substrate itself serves as an effector, the effect is said to be homotropic. Most often, an allosteric substrate functions as a positive effector. In such a case, the presence of a substrate molecule at one site on the enzyme enhances the catalytic properties of the other substrate-binding sites. That is, their binding sites exhibit cooperativity. These enzymes show a sigmoidal curve when reaction velocity (vo) is plotted against substrate concentration ([S]), as shown in Figure 5.16. This contrasts with the hyperbolic curve characteristic of enzymes following Michaelis-Menten kinetics, as previously discussed. [Note: The concept of cooperativity of substrate binding is analogous to the binding of oxygen to hemoglobin.]


2. Heterotropic effectors: The effector may be different from the substrate, in which case the effect is said to be heterotropic. For example, consider the feedback inhibition shown in Figure 5.17. The enzyme that converts D to E has an allosteric site that binds the endproduct, G. If the concentration of G increases (for example, because it is not used as rapidly as it is synthesized), the first irreversible step unique to the pathway is typically inhibited. Feedback inhibition provides the cell with appropriate amounts of a product it needs by regulating the flow of substrate molecules through the pathway that synthesizes that product. Heterotropic effectors are commonly encountered. For example, the glycolytic enzyme phosphofructokinase-1 is allosterically inhibited by citrate, which is not a substrate for the enzyme.

Figure 5.17 Feedback inhibition of a metabolic pathway.


B. Regulation of enzymes by covalent modification


Many enzymes are regulated by covalent modification, most often by the addition or removal of phosphate groups from specific serine, threonine, or tyrosine residues of the enzyme. Protein phosphorylation is recognized as one of the primary ways in which cellular processes are regulated. [Note: Protein phosphorylation is mediated by hormonal signals.]


1. Phosphorylation and dephosphorylation: Phosphorylation reactions are catalyzed by a family of enzymes called protein kinases that use ATP as the phosphate donor. Phosphate groups are cleaved from phosphorylated enzymes by the action of phosphoprotein phosphatases (Figure 5.18).


2. Response of enzyme to phosphorylation: Depending on the specific enzyme, the phosphorylated form may be more or less active than the unphosphorylated enzyme. For example, phosphorylation of glycogen phosphorylase (an enzyme that degrades glycogen) increases activity, whereas phosphorylation of glycogen synthase (an enzyme that synthesizes glycogen) decreases activity.

Figure 5.18 Covalent modification by the addition and removal of phosphate groups. [Note: HPO42−may be represented as Pi.]


C. Induction and repression of enzyme synthesis


The regulatory mechanisms described above modify the activity of existing enzyme molecules. However, cells can also regulate the amount of enzyme present by altering the rate of enzyme degradation or, more typically, the rate of enzyme synthesis. The increase (induction) or decrease (repression) of enzyme synthesis leads to an alteration in the total population of active sites. Enzymes subject to regulation of synthesis are often those that are needed at only one stage of development or under selected physiologic conditions. For example, elevated levels of insulin as a result of high blood glucose levels cause an increase in the synthesis of key enzymes involved in glucose metabolism. In contrast, enzymes that are in constant use are usually not regulated by altering the rate of enzyme synthesis. Alterations in enzyme levels as a result of induction or repression of protein synthesis are slow (hours to days), compared with allosterically or covalently regulated changes in enzyme activity, which occur in seconds to minutes. Figure 5.19 summarizes the common ways that enzyme activity is regulated.

Figure 5.19 Mechanisms for regulating enzyme activity. [Note: Inhibition by pathway end product is also referred to as feedback inhibition.]

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