Updated: Apr 28, 2021
Enzymes are biological catalysts; proteins that increase the rate of chemical reactions. Without enzymes, the chemical reactions necessary to maintain life would happen too slowly. There are many excellent hands-on labs that can be done to study enzymatic reactions in a typical high school lab setting (enzymatic browning in fruit, oxygen production with yeast catalase and peroxide, pineapple bromelain and Jello...). However, many students struggle with connecting what is happening on a molecular level to the observed results. Simulations can help bridge that gap. This enzyme simulation allows students to see the reactions as they are happening.
This simulation uses a simplified version of the biochemical pathway involving amylase and maltase. Starch conversion to maltose is catalyzed by amylase and the maltose to glucose reaction is catalyzed by maltase. It is important to note here that "starch" is representing a short glucose chain, rather than the longer varieties of starch one would encounter in a practical lab. The numbers and rates observed are all simplified and do not necessarily match what would be observed if the experiment was repeated in real life. However, the optimal pH and temperatures are close to published data.
The simulation also includes an amylase inhibitor that can be added. This is a competitive reversible inhibitor, but should not be seen as a direct representation of real-world amylase inhibitors.
There are several prepared virtual labs that can be used with this. However, these options do not exhaust the possibilities, so teachers should, as always, feel free to make their own lessons using the simulation.
Note: There is a known bug affecting the amylase inhibitor...occasionally, new amylase molecules will appear for no apparent reason. This does not occur every time and typically does not affect the results of an experiment.