Enzyme - Naming Conventions

Naming Conventions

An enzyme's name is often derived from its substrate or the chemical reaction it catalyzes, with the word ending in -ase. Examples are lactase, alcohol dehydrogenase and DNA polymerase. This may result in different enzymes, called isozymes, with the same function having the same basic name. Isoenzymes have a different amino acid sequence and might be distinguished by their optimal pH, kinetic properties or immunologically. Isoenzyme and isozyme are homologous proteins. Furthermore, the normal physiological reaction an enzyme catalyzes may not be the same as under artificial conditions. This can result in the same enzyme being identified with two different names. For example, glucose isomerase, which is used industrially to convert glucose into the sweetener fructose, is a xylose isomerase in vivo (within the body).

The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology have developed a nomenclature for enzymes, the EC numbers; each enzyme is described by a sequence of four numbers preceded by "EC". The first number broadly classifies the enzyme based on its mechanism.

The top-level classification is

  • EC 1 Oxidoreductases: catalyze oxidation/reduction reactions
  • EC 2 Transferases: transfer a functional group (e.g. a methyl or phosphate group)
  • EC 3 Hydrolases: catalyze the hydrolysis of various bonds
  • EC 4 Lyases: cleave various bonds by means other than hydrolysis and oxidation
  • EC 5 Isomerases: catalyze isomerization changes within a single molecule
  • EC 6 Ligases: join two molecules with covalent bonds.

According to the naming conventions, enzymes are generally classified into six main family classes and many sub-family classes. Some web-servers, e.g., EzyPred and bioinformatics tools have been developed to predict which main family class and sub-family class an enzyme molecule belongs to according to its sequence information alone via the pseudo amino acid composition.

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