Role of substrate unbinding in Michaelis-Menten enzymatic reactions

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The Michaelis-Menten equation provides a hundred-year-old prediction by which any increase in the rate of substrate unbinding will decrease the rate of enzymatic turnover. Surprisingly, this prediction was never tested experimentally nor was it scrutinized using modern theoretical tools. Here we show that unbinding may also speed up enzymatic turnover - turning a spotlight to the fact that its actual role in enzymatic catalysis remains to be determined experimentally. Analytically constructing the unbinding phase space, we identify four distinct categories of unbinding: inhibitory, excitatory, superexcitatory, and restorative. A transition in which the effect of unbinding changes from inhibitory to excitatory as substrate concentrations increase, and an overlooked tradeoff between the speed and efficiency of enzymatic reactions, are naturally unveiled as a result. The theory presented herein motivates, and allows the interpretation of, groundbreaking experiments in which existing single-molecule manipulation techniques will be adapted for the purpose of measuring enzymatic turnover under a controlled variation of unbinding rates. As we hereby show, these experiments will not only shed first light on the role of unbinding but will also allow one to determine the time distribution required for the completion of the catalytic step in isolation from the rest of the enzymatic turnover cycle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4391-4396
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number12
StatePublished - 25 Mar 2014


  • Enzyme kinetics
  • Renewal theory
  • Single enzyme


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