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C R Biol. 2006 Jan;329(1):51-61. Epub 2005 Oct 19.

The mechanism distinguishability problem in biochemical kinetics: the single-enzyme, single-substrate reaction as a case study.

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  • 1Centre for Mathematical Biology, Mathematical Institute, 24-29 St Giles', Oxford OX1 3LB, UK.


A theoretical analysis of the distinguishability problem of two rival models of the single enzyme-single substrate reaction, the Michaelis-Menten and Henri mechanisms, is presented. We also outline a general approach for analysing the structural indistinguishability between two mechanisms. The approach involves constructing, if possible, a smooth mapping between the two candidate models. Evans et al. [N.D. Evans, M.J. Chappell, M.J. Chapman, K.R. Godfrey, Structural indistinguishability between uncontrolled (autonomous) nonlinear analytic systems, Automatica 40 (2004) 1947-1953] have shown that if, in addition, either of the mechanisms satisfies a particular criterion then such a transformation always exists when the models are indistinguishable from their experimentally observable outputs. The approach is applied to the single enzyme-single substrate reaction mechanism. In principle, mechanisms can be distinguished using this analysis, but we show that our ability to distinguish mechanistic models depends both on the precise measurements made, and on our knowledge of the system prior to performing the kinetics experiments.

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