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FEBS J. 2014 Jan;281(2):464-72. doi: 10.1111/febs.12564. Epub 2013 Nov 18.

Validity of the Michaelis-Menten equation--steady-state or reactant stationary assumption: that is the question.

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Departments of Molecular & Integrative Physiology and Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics, Brehm Center for Diabetes Research, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


The Michaelis-Menten equation is generally used to estimate the kinetic parameters, V and K(M), when the steady-state assumption is valid. Following a brief overview of the derivation of the Michaelis-Menten equation for the single-enzyme, single-substrate reaction, a critical review of the criteria for validity of the steady-state assumption is presented. The application of the steady-state assumption makes the implicit assumption that there is an initial transient during which the substrate concentration remains approximately constant, equal to the initial substrate concentration, while the enzyme-substrate complex concentration builds up. This implicit assumption is known as the reactant stationary assumption. This review presents evidence showing that the reactant stationary assumption is distinct from and independent of the steady-state assumption. Contrary to the widely believed notion that the Michaelis-Menten equation can always be applied under the steady-state assumption, the reactant stationary assumption is truly the necessary condition for validity of the Michaelis-Menten equation to estimate kinetic parameters. Therefore, the application of the Michaelis-Menten equation only leads to accurate estimation of kinetic parameters when it is used under experimental conditions meeting the reactant stationary assumption. The criterion for validity of the reactant stationary assumption does not require the restrictive condition of choosing a substrate concentration that is much higher than the enzyme concentration in initial rate experiments.


Michaelis-Menten constant; enzyme kinetics; initial rate experiments; limiting rate; rapid-equilibrium assumption; reactant stationary assumption; steady-state assumption

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