Fundamental Challenges in Mechanistic Enzymology: Progress Toward Understanding the Rate Enhancements of Enzymes

Biochemistry. 2013 Mar 26;52(12):2050-67. doi: 10.1021/bi4000113. Epub 2013 Mar 14.


Enzymes are remarkable catalysts that lie at the heart of biology, accelerating chemical reactions to an astounding extent with extraordinary specificity. Enormous progress in understanding the chemical basis of enzymatic transformations and the basic mechanisms underlying rate enhancements over the past decades is apparent. Nevertheless, it has been difficult to achieve a quantitative understanding of how the underlying mechanisms account for the energetics of catalysis, because of the complexity of enzyme systems and the absence of underlying energetic additivity. We review case studies from our own work that illustrate the power of precisely defined and clearly articulated questions when dealing with such complex and multifaceted systems, and we also use this approach to evaluate our current ability to design enzymes. We close by highlighting a series of questions that help frame some of what remains to be understood, and we encourage the reader to define additional questions and directions that will deepen and broaden our understanding of enzymes and their catalysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Catalytic / chemistry
  • Antibodies, Catalytic / genetics
  • Antibodies, Catalytic / metabolism
  • Catalysis
  • Enzymes / chemistry*
  • Enzymes / genetics
  • Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Kinetics
  • Mutagenesis
  • Protein Engineering
  • Steroid Isomerases / chemistry
  • Steroid Isomerases / genetics
  • Steroid Isomerases / metabolism
  • Thermodynamics


  • Antibodies, Catalytic
  • Enzymes
  • Steroid Isomerases