The sigmoidal shape of the curve for v/[S], characteristic of pyruvate decarboxylase, indicates that the catalytic activity of this enzyme is regulated by the substrate. The enzyme, which is inactive in the absence of its substrate, is activated not only by 2-oxo acids but also by 2-oxo acid amides, which cannot act as a substrate of the enzyme. Whilst the dissociation constant of the enzyme-activator complex depends on the electrophilic nature of the carbonyl group, the catalytic activity reached at saturation concentrations of the activator species is indepedent of the structure of the activator molecules.
The mechanism of activation which proceeds via two reversible steps could be evaluated exactly by stopped-flow techniques. The kinetic parameters of the activation and deactivation reaction were estimated and the validity of the equations derived which describe the activation kinetics could be proved by comparing them with the measured data.
Using glyoxylic acid as an irreversibly binding active-site marker, it could be shown that addition of the substrate to the enzyme-bound thiamin diphosphate is the step of the catalytic mechanism whose rate is controlled by the substrate (activator) molecule.