The Role of Enzymes in Chemical Changes**Read at a monthly meeting of Faculty and Senior Classes, Baylor University Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy

C.H. Maryott
1915 The Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association (1912)  
Formerly it was thought that the chemical changes involved in the process of living matter sprung from a special vital force, unlike any of the material forces with which we are familiar. The assumption of this vital force was a natural -sequel to the lack of knowledge concerning the nature of the changes involved in the growth and decay of plant and animal structures. Later as a number of products formerly obtained only from living organisms were made in the laboratory by familiar chemical
more » ... ods, the need of any special vital agent disappeared, for it was seen that many of the chemical changes occurring in nature were not essentially different from those producible in the laboratory. The beauty and mystery of the transformations of plant and animal life, however, did not thereby suffer, for it was seen that each living cell constituted a laboratory most complete and wonderfully equipped, where reaction of the most complex nature was carried out with an ease that defied imitation. A study of the means by which these reactions are accomplished, has revealed the importance of a class of substances known as enzymes, elaborated by living cells. In their action they resemble the inorganic catalyzers and conform in general to the behavior of such. A catalyzer is a substance which by its presence alters the rate of a chemical change, without taking, of itself, a permanent part in the reaction. There are many chemical changes going on around us which proceed so slowly under ordinary conditions that they are difficult or impossible of detection within a moderate length of time. Thus cane sugar dissolved in water, very slowly reacts with the water and yields dextrose and levulose. In the presence of hydrochloric acid, or of invertase, an enzyme procured from yeast, the change takes place rapidly, and under suitable conditions might be completed within a few hours. Neither the hydrochloric acid nor the invertase would be used up during the process, but would be present in the same amount and in the same condition after the reaction as they were before it. Likewise oxygen and hydrogen when mixed, under ordinary conditions, do not combine perceptibly, but if finely divided platinum is placed in the mixture, rapid union results, which may ignite the mixture. Besides the fact that catalyzers accelerate reactions and that they undergo no permanent change themselves, there are several characteristics generally ascribed to them. One of the most conspicuous of these is the property which they possess of effecting an amount of chemical change out of all proportion to the amount of catalyzer used, the merest trace often causing a pronounced action; colloidal platinum will cause the decomposition of 1 .~, 0 0 0 times its weight of hydrogen peroxide, and invertase will act upon 200,000 times its weight of sugar. Another characteristic of catalyzers of importance in connection with enzymes is the fact that catalytic agents do not affect the conditions of equilibrium in any
doi:10.1002/jps.3080040604 fatcat:cecgcrsxnvhbbg73jyomu2mxh4