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8.13: Allosteric regulation

A reversible form of regulation is known as allosteric regulation, where a regulatory molecule binds reversibly to the protein altering its conformation, which in turn alters the protein's structure, its location within the cell, its activity, and its half-life. Such allosteric effectors are not covalently attached to the protein and their interactions are reversible, influence by thermal factors and concentration. Allosteric regulators can act either positively or negatively. The nature of such factors is broad, they can be a small molecule or another protein. What is important is that the allosteric binding site is distinct from the enzyme's catalytic site. In fact allosteric means “other site”. Because allosteric regulators do not bind to the same site on the protein as the substrate, changing substrate concentration generally does not alter their effects.

Of course there are other types of regulation as well. A molecule may bind to and block the active site of an enzyme. If this binding is reversible, then increasing the amount of substrate can over-come the inhibition. An inhibitor of this type is known as a competitive inhibitor. In some cases, the inhibitor chemically reacts with the enzyme, forming a covalent bond. This type of inhibitor is essentially irreversible, so that increasing substrate concentration does not overcome inhibition. These are therefore known as non-competitive inhibitors. Allosteric effectors are also non-competitive, since they do not compete with substrate for binding to the active site. That said, binding of substrate could, in theory, change the affinity of the protein for its allosteric effectors, just as binding of the allosteric effector changes the binding affinity of the protein for the substrate.


  • Michael W. Klymkowsky (University of Colorado Boulder) and Melanie M. Cooper (Michigan State University) with significant contributions by Emina Begovic & some editorial assistance of Rebecca Klymkowsky.