In this paper, we demonstrate that single enzyme molecules of β-galactosidase interconvert between different activity states upon exposure to short pulses of heat. We show that these changes in activity are the result of different enzyme conformations. Hundreds of single β-galactosidase molecules are trapped in femtoliter reaction chambers and the individual enzymes are subjected to short heating pulses. When heating pulses are introduced into the system, the enzyme molecules switch between different activity states. Furthermore, we observe that the changes in activity are random and do not correlate with the enzyme's original activity. This study demonstrates that different stable conformations play an important role in the static heterogeneity reported previously, resulting in distinct long-lived activity states of enzyme molecules in a population.
Rojek, Marcin J, David R Walt