This assignment is for an upper level biochemistry course. It uses enzyme kinetics to assess quantitative literacy and the student’s ability to translate mathematical relationships into biochemical processes. The first part can be done in groups (for larger classes) or individually. The second part is an exam question that is used for individual assessment. The assignment assumes math skills at a pre-calculus level.
Background and Context
This assignment is for an upper level (juniors and seniors) Biochemistry course. Students have already completed more than half of their degree requirements. They are required to have completed two semesters of Organic Chemistry, but they are not required to have already completed Calculus or Statistics, so this assignment is designed with the required math skills at a pre-calculus level. This assignment uses enzyme kinetics to assess quantitative literacy and the students’ ability to translate mathematical relationships into biochemical processes. The first part can be done in groups (for larger classes) on individually. The second part is an exam question that is used for individual assessment.
Part 1: Students are given information on methanol poisoning and its history in the prohibition era. They are then presented with three different inhibitors which will inhibit the enzyme that causes the problem in methanol poisoning. Students are given kinetics data (concentration of substrate vs. velocity of reaction) of the enzyme by itself and in the presence of 3 different inhibitors. If this is done in groups, each group can be given the data for one of the inhibitors. At home, students are directed to graph the data in a Lineweaver Burke plot, and find the equation of the graphed line. Students bring these graphs and equations to class and use them to calculate (Quantitative Literacy Rubric) the Vmax and Km of the enzyme by itself and in the presence of the inhibitor(s). Students must analyze (Quantitative Literacy Rubric) and interpret (Quantitative Literacy Rubric) the graph and calculations in order to explain what type of inhibitor it is, and how this inhibitor works to inhibit the enzyme. Students also answer a question that relates this data to real world experience (effect of additional methanol on the inhibition of the enzyme). This also incorporates communication (Quantitative Literacy Rubric) as they must explain how they use the data to determine this.
Part 2: The exam question relating to this assignment gives students a verbal description of the kinetics of a reaction with and without an inhibitor. From this information, students need to communicate (Quantitative Literacy Rubric) in their answer information about the inhibitor and draw a line on a graph representing the kinetics of the reaction in the presence of the inhibitor (the graph already has a line representing the enzyme alone). Structuring the question this way, instead of the way it is structured in the assignment, will prevent students from simply memorizing the way the line changes with different inhibitors. It requires that they understand how the changes in Vmax and Km are used to determine the type of inhibition and be able to represent (Quantitative Literacy Rubric) this graphically.
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