The slow down in enzymatic hydrolysis of cellulose with conversion has often been attributed to declining reactivity of the substrate as the more easily reacted material is thought to be consumed preferentially. To better understand the cause of this phenomenon, the enzymatic reaction of the nearly pure cellulose in Avicel was interrupted over the course of nearly complete hydrolysis. Then, the solids were treated with proteinase to degrade the cellulase enzymes remaining on the solid surface, followed by proteinase inhibitors to inactive the proteinase and successive washing with water, 1.0 M NaCl solution, and water. Next, fresh cellulase and buffer were added to the solids to restart hydrolysis. The rate of cellulose hydrolysis, expressed as a percent of substrate remaining at that time, was approximately constant over a wide range of conversions for restart experiments but declined continually with conversion for uninterrupted hydrolysis. Furthermore, the cellulose hydrolysis rate per adsorbed enzyme was approximately constant for the restart procedure but declined with conversion when enzymes were left to react. Thus, the drop off in reaction rate for uninterrupted cellulose digestion by enzymes could not be attributed to changes in substrate reactivity, suggesting that other effects such as enzymes getting “stuck” or otherwise slowing down may be responsible. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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