Optical visualization and quantification of enzyme activity using dynamic droplet lenses

Lauren D. Zarzar, Julia A. Kalow, Xinping He, Joseph J. Walish, Timothy M. Swager*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


In this paper, we describe an approach to measuring enzyme activity based on the reconfiguration of complex emulsions. Changes in the morphology of these complex emulsions, driven by enzyme-responsive surfactants, modulate the transmission of light through a sample. Through this method we demonstrate how simple photodetector measurements may be used to monitor enzyme kinetics. This approach is validated by quantitative measurements of enzyme activity for three different classes of enzymes (amylase, lipase, and sulfatase), relying on two distinct mechanisms for coupling droplet morphology to enzyme activity (host–guest interactions with uncaging and molecular cleavage).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3821-3825
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - Apr 11 2017


  • Assay
  • Emulsion
  • Enzyme
  • Lenses
  • Sensor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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