4.5: Cofactors and Coenzymes
Enzymes require additional components for proper function. There are two such classes of molecules: cofactors and coenzymes. Cofactors are metallic ions and coenzymes are non-protein organic molecules. Both of these types of helper molecule can be tightly bound to the enzyme or bound only when the substrate binds.
Cofactors are present in ~30% of mature proteins. They are frequently incorporated into an enzyme as it is folded and are involved in the enzyme’s catalytic activity. Magnesium is an essential cofactor for over 300 enzymes in the human body, including DNA polymerase. In this case, the magnesium ion aids in the formation of the phosphodiester bond on the DNA backbone. Iron, copper, cobalt, and manganese are other common cofactors.
Many vitamins are coenzymes, as they are nonprotein, organic helper molecules for enzymes. For example, biotin—a type of B vitamin—is important in a variety of enzymes that transfer carbon dioxide from one molecule to another. Biotin, vitamin A and other vitamins must be ingested in our diet, as they cannot be made by human cells.