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Lysozymes are part of the innate immune system. They are enzymes which are in mucus secretions like saliva. They protect against infection by chopping up the bacteria, viruses and fungi which infect animals.
The name 'lysozyme' was coined in 1922 by Alexander Fleming (1881–1955), the discoverer of penicillin. Fleming first observed the antibacterial action of lysozyme when he treated bacterial cultures with nasal mucus from a patient suffering from a common cold.
Lysozyme was the second protein structure, and the first enzyme structure, solved by X-ray diffraction methods. It was the first enzyme to be fully sequenced that contains all twenty common amino acids. It was also the first enzyme to have a detailed, specific mechanism suggested for its action. This work led to an explanation of how enzymes speed up a chemical reaction by their physical structures.
- Innate immune systems give immediate defence against infection, and are found in all plant and animal life.Janeway, Charles A. 2001. Evolution of the innate immune system. In Janeway, Charles; Paul Travers, Mark Walport, and Mark Shlomchik. Immunobiology, p598. 5th ed, New York and London: Garland Science. ISBN 978-0-8153-4101-7
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