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Families of Enzymes: Proteases
Large numbers of enzymes catalyze similar functions. Many oxidation–reduction reactions take place, each catalyzed by a specific enzyme. We have already seen that kinases transfer phosphate groups. Still other enzymes catalyze hydrolytic reactions. Enzymes that have similar functions may have widely varying structures. The important feature that they have in common is an active site that can catalyze the reaction in question. A number of different enzymes catalyze the hydrolysis of proteins. Chymotrypsin is one example of the class of serine proteases, but many others are known, including elastase, which catalyzes the degradation of the connective tissue protein elastin and the digestive enzyme trypsin. (Recall that we first saw trypsin in its role in protein sequencing.) All these enzymes are similar in structure. Other proteases employ other essential amino acid residues as the nucleophile in the active site. Papain, the basis of commercial meat tenderizers, is a proteolytic enzyme derived from papayas. However, it has a cysteine rather than a serine as the nucleophile in its active site. Aspartyl proteases differ still more widely in structure from the common serine proteases. A pair of aspartate side chains, sometimes on different subunits, participates in the reaction mechanism. A number of aspartyl proteases, such as the digestive enzyme pepsin, are known. However, the most notorious aspartyl protease is the one necessary for the maturation of the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV-1 protease.
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