Recent studies have shown that the diffusivity of enzymes increases in a substrate-dependent manner during catalysis1,2. Although this observation has been reported and characterized for several different systems3-10, the precise origin of this phenomenon is unknown. Calorimetric methods are often used to determine enthalpies from enzyme-catalysed reactions and can therefore provide important insight into their reaction mechanisms11,12. The ensemble averages involved in traditional bulk calorimetry cannot probe the transient effects that the energy exchanged in a reaction may have on the catalyst. Here we obtain single-molecule fluorescence correlation spectroscopy data and analyse them within the framework of a stochastic theory to demonstrate a mechanistic link between the enhanced diffusion of a single enzyme molecule and the heat released in the reaction. We propose that the heat released during catalysis generates an asymmetric pressure wave that results in a differential stress at the protein-solvent interface that transiently displaces the centre-of-mass of the enzyme (chemoacoustic effect). This novel perspective on how enzymes respond to the energy released during catalysis suggests a possible effect of the heat of reaction on the structural integrity and internal degrees of freedom of the enzyme.
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