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Enzyme vs. Coenzyme: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 24, 2024
Enzyme is a protein that acts as a biological catalyst, speeding up chemical reactions. Coenzyme is a non-protein molecule that assists enzymes in reaction processes.

Key Differences

Enzymes are proteins that function as biological catalysts, crucial for speeding up chemical reactions in the body without being consumed in the process. They are specific to substrates and reactions. Coenzymes, in contrast, are small, non-protein organic molecules that bind to enzymes and help them perform their catalytic function. They often work by transferring chemical groups from one molecule to another in biochemical reactions.
The structure of an enzyme is typically complex, consisting of long chains of amino acids that fold into unique 3D shapes necessary for their specific functions. Coenzymes are much smaller and are not proteins; they are often derived from vitamins and other organic essential nutrients. They play a supporting role in enzymatic reactions, often by carrying chemical groups between enzymes.
Enzymes can be highly specific, not only to the type of reaction they catalyze but also to their substrates. This specificity ensures that enzymes catalyze only certain reactions. Coenzymes, while also specific, are more versatile in the sense that one coenzyme can associate with multiple enzymes, assisting in various types of reactions.
The activity of enzymes can be influenced by several factors, including temperature, pH, and the presence of inhibitors or activators. Coenzymes can also affect enzyme activity, but they primarily do so by being available or scarce, thereby enabling or limiting the enzyme’s action.
Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts for biochemical reactions, with a highly specific structure and function. Coenzymes, on the other hand, are non-protein molecules that assist enzymes, often by transferring chemical groups from one molecule to another.

Comparison Chart


Non-protein, organic molecules


Act as catalysts in biochemical reactions
Assist enzymes in their catalytic function


Highly specific to substrates and reactions
Can work with multiple enzymes

Size and Structure

Large, complex 3D structures
Small, simpler structures


Synthesized by cells as proteins
Often derived from vitamins or similar nutrients

Enzyme and Coenzyme Definitions


Protein in nature.
Each enzyme's unique protein structure determines its function.


Enzyme assistant.
Coenzyme Q10 helps in energy production in cells.


Specific to substrates.
Amylase is an enzyme that specifically acts on starch.


Derived from vitamins.
Many coenzymes are synthesized from dietary vitamins.


Essential for metabolic processes.
Enzymes play a key role in cellular respiration.


Non-protein organic molecule.
Vitamin B6 is a precursor to the coenzyme PLP.


Biological catalysts.
The enzyme lactase helps break down lactose in milk.


Transfer of chemical groups.
NAD, a coenzyme, is involved in redox reactions.


Speeds up chemical reactions.
Enzymes accelerate reactions without being consumed.


Modulates enzyme activity.
Coenzymes can increase or decrease enzyme efficiency.


Any of numerous compounds that are produced by living organisms and function as biochemical catalysts. Some enzymes are simple proteins, and others consist of a protein linked to one or more nonprotein groups.


An organic substance that reversibly combines with a specific protein, the apoenzyme, and with a substrate to form an active enzyme system.


(biochemistry) A globular protein that catalyses a biological chemical reaction.


(biochemistry) Any small molecule that is necessary for the functioning of an enzyme.


(Christianity) leavened bread, as opposed to azyme


A molecule that is essential for the activity of some enzymes; it may exist free in solution within a living organism, but functions by binding to an enzyme to assist in catalyzing a reaction. The molecule itself may be temporarily changed during the reaction, but is ultimately restored to its original form. Many vitamins function as coenzymes.


A protein produced by a living organism, capable of catalyzing a chemical reaction. Almost all processes in living organisms require some form of enzyme to cause the reactions to occur at a rate sufficient to support life. There are a very wide variety of enzymes, each specifically catalyzing a different chemical reaction, the sum of which cause the bulk of the physiological changes observed as life processes. Enzymes, like most proteins, are synthesized by the protein-synthetic mechanism of the living cell, at special sites on ribosomes, using the genetic information in messenger RNA transcribed from the genetic instructions stored as nuleotide sequences in the DNA (or in some viruses, the RNA) of the genome. Some examples of enzymes are: pepsin, diastase, rennet, DNA polymerase, invertase, glucose oxidase, protease, and ribonuclease. There are many other types of enzyme.


A small molecule (not a protein but sometimes a vitamin) essential for the activity of some enzymes


Any of several complex proteins that are produced by cells and act as catalysts in specific biochemical reactions


Can a coenzyme be a protein?

No, coenzymes are non-protein organic molecules.

Do enzymes work alone?

Some do, but others require coenzymes or cofactors.

How do coenzymes assist enzymes?

They help enzymes by transferring chemical groups or electrons.

Where do coenzymes come from?

They are often derived from vitamins and nutrients.

Can enzymes be reused?

Yes, enzymes can be reused in multiple reactions.

How does temperature affect enzyme activity?

Extreme temperatures can denature enzymes, reducing their activity.

What is the main function of enzymes?

Enzymes catalyze and speed up biochemical reactions.

Are all enzymes proteins?

Yes, all enzymes are made up of proteins.

How do coenzymes differ from cofactors?

Coenzymes are organic molecules, while cofactors can be inorganic.

How do vitamins relate to coenzymes?

Many coenzymes are synthesized from vitamins.

Are coenzymes consumed in reactions?

They are not consumed but can be modified and recycled.

Do coenzymes affect enzyme specificity?

No, they don't change the enzyme's substrate specificity.

Do enzymes have a 3D structure?

Yes, their unique 3D structure is key to their function.

What's an example of a coenzyme?

NAD+ (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide) is a common coenzyme.

Can enzymes be synthesized artificially?

Yes, they can be synthesized in labs.

Can enzymes function without a coenzyme?

Some enzymes require coenzymes, while others do not.

Do enzymes work in all pH conditions?

No, each enzyme has an optimal pH range.

Are coenzymes present in all cells?

Yes, they are found in virtually all living cells.

Are coenzymes always necessary for enzymatic reactions?

Not always, but they are crucial for many reactions.

Can enzyme deficiencies be harmful?

Yes, they can lead to metabolic disorders.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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