When a protein is changed in shape and "unfolded", it is said to be denatured. This can occur in a number of ways, from a change in environmental factors (i.e. high/low temperature) to the addition of different chemicals (i.e. solvents), causing breaking and changing of integral bonds within the protein.
Denaturing is particularly important to consider when studying enzymes- If a protein's active site is changed so that it is no longer complementary to its substrate then it cannot carry out its function correctly.
- ↑ Alberts, B. Johnson, A. Lewis, J. Raff, M. Roberts, K. Walter, P (2008). Molecular biology of the cell. 5th ed. New York: Garland Science. 130.