Can their be a kind of chemical reaction pathway in a cell, that is catalyzed or regulated but NOT necessarily by enzymes? I could not find anything on Google.

I have almost no background in biology, and am only studying certain topics from a mathematical perspective.


1 Answer 1


If by enzyme you mean "protein" aka polypeptide, than there are such things as catalitic RNAs. Those are molecules of RNA that facilitate chemical reactions but don't change themselves (definition of catalyst). I think that, based on the discovery of such RNAs, it is now believed that life might have started from or with the help of catalytic RNAs (please forgive the speculative tone, see self-replicating RNAs).

You might find this article interesting: The Road to Non-Enzymatic Molecular Networks, which describes non-enzymatic networks. The problem with searching this topic is that most current publications, seem to me, to concentrate on way to transfer enzymatic reactions into inorganic catalysis systems--because those systems can be more clean and easy to expand--than purifying enzymes for biotech.

  • $\begingroup$ This should rather be a comment than a full answer in my opinion. You make good points, but i think this needs to be elaborated. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ in what way? also, RNAs are only example of pure non-protein catalysts I can think of. Others involve coenzymes, e.g. vitamins while they are part of proteins. There is not much surface metal catalysis in cellular biology (Pt) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ Well, in my mind I was thinking of enzymes which help in metabolism, regulate intracellular reactions and such.. $\endgroup$
    – mesllo
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @aandreev - In a way that you describe what catalitc RNAs or ribozymes are, how do they work, what reactions do they play roles in. Also some peer-reviewed article on the topic would be nice. I too use wikipedia as source for explaining basic things in my answers but for the main topic I think peer reviewed literature is more suitable. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @jablesauce Well, that is not very common, after all cellular biology is protein-centered. I wish someone with more insight will answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 15:25

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