We have investigated the time course of the degradation of a supported dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine bilayer by phospholipase A2 in aqueous buffer with an atomic force microscope. Contact mode imaging allows visualization of enzyme activity on the substrate with a lateral resolution of less than 10 nm. Detailed analysis of the micrographs reveals a dependence of enzyme activity on the phospholipid organization and orientation in the bilayer. These experiments suggest that it is possible to observe single enzymes at work in small channels, which are created by the hydrolysis of membrane phospholipids. Indeed, the measured rate of hydrolysis of phospholipids corresponds very well with the enzyme activity found in kinetic studies. It was also possible to correlate the number of enzymes at the surface, as calculated from the binding constant to the number of starting points of the hydrolysis. In addition, the width of the channels was found to be comparable to the diameter of a single phospholipase A2 and thus further supports the single-enzyme hypothesis.
Grandbois, M., Clausen-Schaumann, H., & Gaub, H. (1998). Atomic force microscope imaging of phospholipid bilayer degradation by phospholipase A2. Biophysical Journal, 74(5), 2398–2404. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3495(98)77948-2