Foundations of Chemistry

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 3–29 | Cite as

A Process Theory of Enzyme Catalytic Power – the Interplay of Science and Metaphysics

  • Ross L. SteinEmail author


Enzymes are protein catalysts of extraordinary efficiency, capable of bringing about rate enhancements of their biochemical reactions that can approach factors of 1020. Theories of enzyme catalysis, which seek to explain the means by which enzymes effect catalytic transformation of the substrate molecules on which they work, have evolved over the past century from the “lock-and-key” model proposed by Emil Fischer in 1894 to models that explicitly rely on transition state theory to the most recent theories that strive to provide accounts that stress the essential role of protein dynamics. In this paper, I attempt to construct a metaphysical framework within which these new models of enzyme catalysis can be developed. This framework is constructed from key doctrines of process thought, which gives ontologic priority to becoming over being, as well as tenets of a process philosophy of chemistry, which stresses environmentally responsive molecular transformation. Enzyme catalysis can now be seen not as enzyme acting on its substrate, but rather as enzyme and substrate entering into a relation which allows them to traverse the reaction coordinate as an ontologic unity.


Potential Energy Surface Process Theory Process Thought Transition State Theory Conformational Isomerization 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory for Drug Discovery in NeurodegenerationHarvard Center for Neurodegeneration and RepairCambridgeUSA

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