One of the largest challenges to science in the coming years is to find the relation between enzyme structure and function. Can we predict which reactions an enzyme catalyzes from knowledge of its structure-or from its amino acid sequence? Can we use that knowledge to modify enzyme function? To solve these problems we must understand in some detail how enzymes interact with reactants from its surroundings. These interactions take place at the surface of the enzyme and the question of enzyme function can be viewed as the surface science of enzymes. In this article we discuss how to describe catalysis by enzymes, and in particular the analogies between enzyme catalyzed reactions and surface catalyzed reactions. We do this by discussing two concrete examples of reactions catalyzed both in nature (by enzymes) and in industrial reactors (by inorganic materials), and show that although analogies exist and the two kinds of catalyst can be described by similar tools, nature and human effort have come up with different solutions. This on the other hand implies that new and improved catalysts may be made by learning from nature.
|Publication status||Published - 2002|