Cofactor vs Coenzyme
Our body is composed of not only millions, but billions of cells, units, groups, enzymes, and systems that it is quite understandable that it is very difficult to be abreast of each of these many matters of our body. This is why ensuring that any layman who gets to read this article would be able to fully understand the topic and, hopefully, will be able to properly differentiate a cofactor from a coenzyme.
We shall start by defining each term first.
What is a cofactor?
A cofactor is a non-protein chemical compound. It is bound to the protein and it is needed in the biological activity of the protein. Another term for them are ‘helper molecules’ because they help in the biochemical transformations. There are two types of cofactors:
Coenzymes are cofactors that are bound to an enzyme loosely.
Prosthetic groups are cofactors that are bound tightly to an enzyme.
As additional information, an enzyme can be without a cofactor, and this is called apoenzyme. An enzyme is considered complete if it has the cofactor and it is called a holoenzyme.
What is a coenzyme?
A coenzyme, on the other hand, is a small, organic non-protein molecule. It carries chemical groups between enzymes. It is not regarded as a part of the enzyme’s structure. Vitamins are good examples of a coenzyme. They carry chemical groups between the enzymes. Another term for them is cosubstrates.
To summarize, here are the differences between a cofactor and a coenzyme:
A coenzyme is a type of cofactor. It is the loosely bound cofactor to an enzyme.
Cofactors are chemical compounds that are bound to proteins.
A cofactor is a non-protein chemical compound, while a coenzyme is a non-protein molecule.
It is important to understand that, in our body, enzymes are very important. They help in regulating metabolism. They help in controlling the chemical reactions in the body. This is why knowing about coenzymes and cofactors is quite essential in the processes of our body. For starters, coenzymes and cofactors combine with enzymes to alter and bring about change to the body by making, offering, and doing changes to the chemical reactions. At the same time, to achieve certain chemical reactions, cofactors and coenzymes are needed.
To state an example that is will be easy to understand, let’s talk about digestion.
Digestion is a chemical reaction. During digestion, the stomach breaks down large food molecules into smaller ones. When they have been broken down, there are parts of such molecules that become sugar. What happens is that sugar would metabolize into different compounds. These compounds would release energy. That’s only one part. There are several chemical reactions that happen, and enzymes are very important in ensuring that these chemical reactions function properly in the body.
Cofactors serve the same purpose as coenzymes, as they regulate, control, and adjust how fast these chemical reactions would respond and take effect in our body. The big difference is that coenzymes are organic substances, while cofactors are inorganic.
Coenzymes function as intermediate carriers. This means they make sure that specific atoms are carried out to the specific group so the overall reaction is carried out and finalized, so to speak. Cofactors, on the other hand, as they are classified as inorganic substances, are needed and required to increase how fast the catalysis would take place.
Our body definitely has several things going on within it. With so many different systems in our body, it certainly needs not just one type of reaction, chemical or otherwise, to ensure that it functions as it should.