Lock and Key Analogy with Enzymes

Written by Michelle Zurawski, Moraine Valley Community College

This is an analogy that is used during the enzyme discussion. I compare the enzyme substrate complex with a lock and key. My car is a cheap fuel efficient little car so I tell the students that I would like upgrade to a nicer Prius. I ask them if I could go to the parking lot and open a nice new Prius with my key. I then tell them that this is one of the ways that enzymes work to save energy. You only need a small amount of enzyme (1 key) to work with a specific substrate (1 car). Just think if you had to make a new key every time you opened up your car door. That saves energy by using that same enzyme (car key) over and over for the same reaction (car). Enzymes are specific to one substrate just like the key to my car is specific to my car. You can also use the two puzzle pieces fitting together like an enzyme and a substrate only fitting together in one way.