MadSci Network: Biochemistry

Re: when an enzyme denatures which bonds are the first to break?

Date: Tue Apr 24 08:22:58 2007
Posted By: Karin Crowhurst, Post-doc/Fellow, Biochemistry
Area of science: Biochemistry
ID: 1177260282.Bc

Hi Shourya,

You will probably not like this answer, but unfortunately the answer to this question is not straightforward.

There are two issues: the first issue is that the order of bond breakage is completely dependent on HOW you denature your enzyme. For example, heat denaturation tends to disrupt hydrogen bonds and hydrophobic interactions (with long-range tertiary interactions being the first to go), a change in pH will have an immediate effect on ionic bonds (also known as salt bridges), a change to more reducing conditions will weaken disulfide bonds, etc. The second issue is that scientists are still studying the denaturation of proteins and cannot give any definitive answers about the series of stages in protein unfolding (and folding) - there is still a strong debate about what happens first, etc. They are even unsure as to how typical denaturants such as urea actually denature a protein - they have general ideas, but no concrete answer.

So, I'm sorry to say, as with many things in science, Shourya, there is no cut-and-dried answer to your question, unfortunately. Particularly when we are talking about proteins (in your case, enzymes), the forces holding those structures together are so diverse and so complex that you'll rarely be able to generalise about any aspects of their behaviour.

This is probably not the type of answer your teacher might be looking for (assuming your question is related to an assignment or project for school), but it is true!


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