Understanding enzyme catalysis on a molecular and energetic basis has fascinated scientists for more than half a century. In addition to their obvious physiological involvement, the incredible efficiency of enzymes continues to intrigue us. In the absence of enzymes, many reactions of biological interest, e.g. the hydrolysis of proteins, carbohydrates and DNA, have half-lives of hundreds to millions of years. After a substrate is bound at an enzyme's active site, its halflife is usually milliseconds. The low concentration of enzymes in cells, which is often at or below the micromolar level, means that a rapid turnover is necessary to produce a significant rate of reaction and many reactions occur at near the diffusion controlled limit. The high catalytic efficiency of enzymes has not been emulated by artificial systems and therefore many have wondered if they could even be understood by ordinary chemistry.

This content is only available as a PDF.