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This lesson will discuss what a substrate is and how it relates to enzymes. It will also explain what substrate concentration means and take a look at how substrate concentration affects enzyme activity.

What Are Substrates?

How do you make scrambled eggs? First, you need an egg, and then you have to crack the egg, mix it up, and stir it while cooking. What happened to the shell? Well, it’s either thrown away or put into the compost pile. You can even add different ingredients like ham or cheese.Why talk about scrambling eggs if we’re talking about substrates? You can think of the substrate as the egg. A substrate is a substance that is used to make a final product.

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It is changed and reformed during the process. Sometimes chemical groups are added or taken away.In the cell, enzymes bind and change substrates into their final product. When the enzyme is bound to the substrate, it is known as an enzyme-substrate complex. In this example, you would behave as an enzyme.

You take the substrate (the egg) and change it into the final product (scrambled eggs). You take away chemical groups (the shell) and can add others (ham and cheese).The removed chemical groups are recycled by the cell and used for other reactions. You are unchanged during the process. Enzymes are also unchanged while creating products.Products themselves are often substrates for other cellular reactions, just as you can scramble eggs to make many other dishes, including casseroles, quiches, or egg and cheese biscuits.

Substrate Concentration

So how many scrambled eggs can you make? Well, that depends on the number of eggs you have.

The amount of eggs is your concentration. Substrate concentration is the amount of substrate present that can be turned into product. The unit of measurement usually assigned to eggs is dozen. Substrate concentration can be measured in various ways. Since the substrates inside the cell are suspended in cellular fluid, substrate concentration is most commonly measured in molar concentration, or molarity (M), which is moles per liter.

A mole is 6.022×10^23 units of a substance. So if you had 6.

022×10^23 eggs, you would have 1 mole of eggs (that’s a lot of eggs!). Now if you put all these eggs (let’s say we used a shrink ray to shrink the eggs to atomic size) into 1 liter of water, the molarity of your substrate would be 1 M (1 mole eggs/1 liter water). Concentrations are often denoted with brackets.

Substrate Concentration’s Role in Enzyme Activity

If you’re the enzyme, how does the concentration of the substrate (in this case the egg) affect your activity? Let’s say you’re a cook at a big breakfast restaurant and need to cook some scrambled eggs. If there are only five eggs, you have to hunt in the fridge for the eggs; once you find them, then you can cook them. If the other cooks (other enzymes) find them first, you’ll have to wait or hunt for more eggs. If substrate concentration is low, enzymes have a lower chance of encountering the substrate, so its activity, or rate of reaction, is low.Since substrate concentration is an important factor in deciding enzyme activity, it is used in calculating the rate of an enzymatic reaction and binding affinity (how much the enzyme likes the substrate).

The rate of an enzyme reaction is the amount of substrate converted to product over a period of time. In this case, it involves how fast the number of eggs can be converted to scrambled eggs. If there are only five eggs but it takes five minutes to find them and five minutes to cook them, then your rate would be 5 scrambled eggs in 10 minutes or 1 scrambled egg every 2 minutes.Now, say there is a whole shelf section of the fridge dedicated to eggs, and you can easily find and grab a box of a half-dozen eggs to take with you.

You will be able to cook more eggs because you have access to more eggs. Even if the other cooks take some eggs, you can still quickly find some eggs to cook. Thus, as the substrate concentration increases, the enzyme activity will increase proportionately. If you can find five eggs in a second and cook them in five minutes, then your reaction rate would be 1 scrambled egg per minute.There comes a point, however, where substrate concentration will no longer affect enzyme activity.

At this point, the enzymes are saturated, meaning their binding sites are full. If there are five cooks in the big breakfast restaurant and all of them have eggs in pans cooking, even if more eggs are waiting to be cooked, they can’t cook them until they’re done cooking the ones they have. The cooks are saturated.At the level of saturation, the enzyme activity is as high as it can possibly be, and this is known as the Vmax (maximum velocity), which is the point where all enzymes are bound to substrates and are turning them into products.

Enzyme activity is often plotted as rate of reaction versus substrate concentration.

Lesson Summary

A substrate is a substance that is used to make a final product. Enzymes bind to and change substrates into their final product. Substrate concentration is the amount of substrate present that can be turned into product and is most commonly measured in molarity (moles per liter).

The concentration of substrates is often used to measure enzyme activity, which is based on the rate of a reaction (product formed over time). The point where all enzymes are bound to substrates and are turning them into products is known as the Vmax.

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