The Effect of Salt Concentration on Catalase Function

Categories: Chemistry


An experiment was conducted with the purpose of testing and observing how different levels of salinity impact an enzyme’s ability to break down hydrogen peroxide, a toxic substance found in the human body, into water and oxygen. The enzyme studied was catalase; catalase is commonly found in the human body and is responsible for breaking down hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. It was then tested how different levels of salinity impact the rate at which catalase can break down hydrogen peroxide.

This experiment was performed by calculating the speed, through the equation distance (mm) / time (sec), in which a filter paper disc, previously soaked in a catalase-salt solution, traveled from the bottom to the top of a vial filled with hydrogen peroxide. The speed of the filter paper disc signified the rate of oxygen production, therefore indicating the rate of the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide.

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A variable amount of salt was measured in grams and then dissolved in a constant amount of catalase to create this catalase-salt solution.

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One full trial was performed and one half of a second trial was performed, which was ultimately averaged with the corresponding parts of the first trial. As an additional note, the lab results did not coincide with the hypothesis and showed no trend, so additional research and results from other similar scientific studies were utilized as a point of comparison to the original results.


The hypothesis posited that an increase in the salinity of the catalase-salt solution would denature the structure of catalase, leading to a reduction in its ability to catalyze the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide. This hypothesis was based on the idea that salt acts as an inhibitor, hindering the enzyme's catalytic activity.


  1. Label six medicine cups as follows: "0g," "0.3g," "0.6g," "0.9g," "1.2g," and "1.5g."
  2. Fill the "0g" medicine cup with 25mL of catalase.
  3. Weigh the variable amount of salt using a scale.
  4. Dissolve the salt in the medicine cup with catalase using a stirring rod.
  5. Soak a filter paper disc in the catalase-salt solution, placing it into the medicine cup using forceps.
  6. Remove the filter paper disc from the medicine cup and blot it with a paper towel.
  7. Fill a vial with 20mL of hydrogen peroxide.
  8. Place the filter paper disc into the bottom of the hydrogen peroxide vial.
  9. Time, in seconds, how long it takes for the filter paper disc to move from the bottom to the top of the vial and measure how far it travels in mm.
  10. Calculate the speed of the filter paper disc (mm/sec) as distance (mm) divided by time (sec).
  11. Empty and clean the vial for reuse.
  12. Repeat steps 2-11 five more times, increasing the salt level in the catalase medicine cup by increments of 0.3 grams each time and using labeled medicine cups that correspond to the amount of salt used.
  13. Repeat steps 2-12 for additional trial(s).
  14. Compile the results and observe any correlations and patterns.


Catalase/Salinity Lab- Trial 1

Test Group 0g Salt 0.3g Salt 0.6g Salt 0.9g Salt 1.2g Salt 1.5g Salt
Distance (mm) 41 41 41 41 41 41
Time (seconds) 8.07 9.39 8.9 6.62 8.45 4.72
Speed of disc (mm/sec) 5.08 4.37 4.61 6.19 4.85 8.68

Catalase/Salinity Lab- Trial 2

Test Group 0g Salt 0.3g Salt 0.6g Salt 0.9g Salt 1.2g Salt 1.5g Salt
Distance (mm) 41 44 46 N/A N/A N/A
Time (seconds) 5.77 10.74 4.15 N/A N/A N/A
Speed of disc (mm/sec) 7.11 4.10 11.08 N/A N/A N/A

Trial Averages

Test Group 0g Salt 0.3g Salt 0.6g Salt 0.9g Salt 1.2g Salt 1.5g Salt
Speed of disc (mm/sec) 6.10 4.24 7.85 6.19 4.85 8.68

Impact of Salinity on Reaction Rate (from scientific research)

The lab results, as shown in the graph "Impact of Salinity on Reaction Rate," did not exhibit a specific trend. The distance traveled by the filter paper disc was generally consistent across different salt concentrations, with the exception of test groups two and three in trial two. The trial averages show that the speed of the disc, indicative of the reaction rate, reached its highest point at 8.68 millimeters per second with test group six and its lowest point at 4.24 millimeters per second with test group two. Due to time constraints, test groups four, five, and six of trial two could not be completed. Interestingly, the graph "Impact of Salinity on Reaction Rate (from scientific research)" suggests that enzyme activity is highest when salt concentration is at an intermediate level, which contradicts the lab results and the initial hypothesis.


The results of the lab, as demonstrated by the graph, did not correspond with the expected results stated by the hypothesis. While the hypothesis stated that the reaction rate would steadily decline as salt concentration increases, the true results of the lab showed no consistent pattern. The hypothesis was later disproven by additional scientific research.

According to the graph from scientific research, enzyme activity is highest when salt concentration is at an intermediate level. This is because sodium chloride has hydrophilic, or polar ions; sodium chloride is an ionic compound, where sodium transfers an electron to chlorine to bond. This allows salt to interact with the R groups of the proteins that make up the enzyme, giving the enzyme optimal shape to interact with substrates and stabilizing the induced fit between the substrate and the enzyme. Salt is an effector molecule, as it “selectively binds to a protein and regulates its biological activity.” [1] Since salt is an allosteric activator, which is an “effector that enhance[s] the protein's activity,” [2] it can interact with proteins at the regulatory site of enzyme, enhancing its ability to perform induced fit when binding with a substrate, which in this case would be hydrogen peroxide. For this reason, salt can be beneficial to enzyme function because there must be a certain amount of salt present for an enzyme to be able to perform induced fit, bind with a substrate, and catalyze reactions. An overabundance of sodium chloride, made up of salt ions and chloride ions, however, will disrupt the electrostatic charges within the enzyme’s proteins because as stated previously, the ions within sodium chloride are polar. This will therefore alter the secondary and tertiary structures of the protein within the enzyme and denature catalase function. Additionally, an overabundance of sodium chloride can block the active site of an enzyme, acting as an inhibitor. In accordance with this research, sodium is essential within the human body because it aids the proper functioning of catalase, allowing it to break down hydrogen peroxide with increased efficiency. This ultimately restricts the buildup of hydrogen peroxide, preventing cell and DNA damage that would otherwise occur.

The enzyme, catalase is essential to the body and is found predominantly within the liver. Catalase breaks down hydrogen peroxide, a chemical found within the body, into water and oxygen, which the body can then use for various activities. Catalase can also be used in the medical field in some cases to differentiate between types of bacteria; this is known as the catalase test. Catalase can be used to help maintain hair color as well; as people grow older, hydrogen peroxide builds up within hair follicles as a result of lowered catalase, resulting in oxidative stress and the graying of hair. Catalase hair supplements can be taken to reduce this buildup of hydrogen peroxide, restoring color. Additionally, catalase is sometimes used in the food industry, specifically with milk and cheese, to remove hydrogen peroxide and prevent oxidation and is occasionally used in the optical world for contact lenses. Catalase has numerous uses, however, when sodium chloride contents are too high, there is a point at which the enzyme decreases in function and is denatured. Intermediate levels of salt are most beneficial for catalase and will increase performance to its maximum. This is supported by the graph from scientific research*. Without the presence of salt, catalase functions at around thirty percent to fifty percent of its full capability. Salt is also “essential for nerve and muscle function and is involved in the regulation of fluids in the body,” where “chloride ions serve as important electrolytes by regulating blood pH and pressure.” [3] Although salt plays an important role in enzymatic activity and various bodily functions, excessive salt in a human diet can be deadly.

The lab results show no specific trend regarding the extent to which salinity impacts catalase function. As seen in the data tables, the amount of catalase used, measured by the distance from the bottom to the top of the vial, was kept constant with the exception of test groups two and three of trial two. Although this variable was attempted to be created constant, this could not be performed due to unintended sources error, such as inaccurate measurements. This means that the catalase to salt ratio within the vial was disrupted, therefore impacting the reaction rate and the results of the lab. Additionally, the measure of time was most likely inexact throughout trials. There were inaccuracies with regards to consistently stopping the timer exactly when the filter paper disc reached the top of the vial, and time is a highly important variable to regulate, for a single inaccuracy or change can have a powerful effect on the calculation of speed. This, therefore, is one of the likely factors that contributed to the unreliable results and lack of an overall trend showing changes in the speed of the filter paper disc/catalase reaction rate**. Another intended constant variable that possibly varied was the amount of catalase and dissolved salt absorbed by the filter paper disc before it was placed into the vial and tested. The paper towel could have absorbed different amounts of catalase and salt when the filter paper was blotted throughout trials. Since a constant amount of catalase absorption is required to generate a constant reaction rate, this could have accounted for error as well. Furthermore, the constrictions of time prevented the completion of trial two and could have been responsible for the errors that occurred. Had trial two been completed, the results may have been more accurate and reliable, diminishing the impact of unintentional error through creating intertrial trends and counterbalancing unreliable results collected in the first trial. Essentially, the margin of human error, which was a result of many factors, and the incompletion of the second trial contributed to the lack of an overall trend. To negate these unreliable results, results from similar experiments elsewhere were taken into account and analyzed.


Combining the results of the lab experiment with insights from scientific research, it can be concluded that intermediate salinity levels are optimal for catalase enzyme activity. This finding contradicts the initial hypothesis and the lab results, but it aligns with various scientific studies. The interaction between salt and catalase is complex, with salt acting as an activator at moderate levels and an inhibitor at excessive levels. Therefore, maintaining an appropriate salt concentration is essential for maximizing the catalytic activity of catalase.


  1. Allosteric regulation. (2019, November 15). Retrieved December 8, 2019, from
  2. Effector (biology). (2019, August 8). Retrieved December 8, 2019, from
  3. Enzyme catalysis. (2019, December 7). Retrieved December 8, 2019, from
  4. Hydrogen peroxide has a complex role in cell health. (2008, January 4). Retrieved December 8, 2019, from
  5. Lanyi, J. K., & Stevenson, J. (1969, May). Effect of salts and organic solvents on the activity of halobacterium cutirubrum catalase. Retrieved from
  6. Naeem, N. (2016, March). Factors affecting enzyme activity. Retrieved from
  7. Weird science: Salt is essential to life. (n.d.). Retrieved from Exploring Our Fluid Earth website:
  8. Writer, C. (2019, April 28). What is the role of catalase? Retrieved December 8, 2019, from
Updated: Jan 02, 2024
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The Effect of Salt Concentration on Catalase Function. (2024, Jan 02). Retrieved from

The Effect of Salt Concentration on Catalase Function essay
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