AskDefine | Define lipase

Dictionary Definition

lipase n : an enzyme secreted in the digestive tract that catalyzes the breakdown of fats into individual fatty acids that can be absorbed into the bloodstream

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any of a group of enzymes which catalyses the hydrolysis of lipids.

Extensive Definition

A lipase is a water-soluble enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of ester bonds in water–insoluble, lipid substrates. Lipases thus comprise a subclass of the esterases.
Lipases perform essential roles in the digestion, transport and processing of dietary lipids (e.g. triglycerides, fats, oils) in most- if not all- living organisms. Genes encoding lipases are even present in certain viruses.


Most lipases act at a specific position on the glycerol backbone of a lipid substrate (A1, A2 or A3).
In the example of human pancreatic lipase (HPL), which is the main enzyme responsible for breaking down fats in the human digestive system, a lipase acts to convert triglyceride substrates found in oils from food to monoglycerides and free fatty acids.
Myriad of other lipase activities exist in nature, especially when the phospholipases and sphingomyelinases are considered.


While a diverse array of genetically distinct lipase enzymes are found in nature, and represent several types of protein folds and catalytic mechanisms, most are built on an alpha/beta hydrolase fold (see image) and employ a chymotrypsin-like hydrolysis mechanism involving a serine nucleophile, an acid residue (usually aspartic acid), and a histidine.

Physiological distribution

Lipases are involved in diverse biological processes ranging from routine metabolism of dietary triglycerides to cell signaling and inflammation. Thus, some lipase activities are confined to specific compartments within cells while others work in extracellular spaces.
  • In the example of lysosomal lipase, the enzyme is confined within an organelle called the lysosome.
  • Other lipase enzymes, such as pancreatic lipases, are secreted into extracellular spaces where they serve to process dietary lipids into more simple forms that can be more easily absorbed and transported throughout the body.
  • Fungi and bacteria may secrete lipases to facilitate nutrient absorption from the external medium (or in examples of pathogenic microbes, to promote invasion of a new host).
  • Certain wasp and bee venoms contain phospholipases that enhance the "biological payload" of injury and inflammation delivered by a sting.

Lipases of humans

The main lipases of the human digestive system are human pancreatic lipase (HPL) and pancreatic lipase related protein 2 (PLRP2), which are secreted by the pancreas. Humans also have several other related enzymes, including hepatic lipase (HL), endothelial lipase, and lipoprotein lipase. Not all of these lipases function in the gut (see table).
Other lipases include , , , , , , , , , and .
There also are a diverse array of phospholipases, but these are not always classified with the other lipases.

Industrial Uses

Lipases from fungi and bacteria serve important roles in human practices as ancient as yogurt and cheese fermentation. However, lipases are also being exploited as cheap and versatile catalysts to degrade lipids in more modern applications. For instance, a biotechnology company has brought recombinant lipase enzymes to market for use in applications such as baking, laundry detergents and even as biocatalysts in alternative energy strategies to convert vegetable oil into fuel.

Additional images

Image:Ester-general.png|General formula of a carboxylate ester Image:Glycerine chemical structure.png|Glycerol Image:Triglyceride-GeneralStructure.png|General structure of a triglyceride


External links

lipase in Danish: Lipase
lipase in German: Lipase
lipase in Spanish: Lipasa
lipase in French: Lipase
lipase in Italian: Lipasi
lipase in Dutch: Lipase
lipase in Japanese: リパーゼ
lipase in Norwegian: Lipase
lipase in Polish: Lipaza
lipase in Portuguese: Lipase
lipase in Russian: Липаза
lipase in Finnish: Lipaasi
lipase in Swedish: Lipas
lipase in Turkish: Lipaz
lipase in Ukrainian: Ліпаза
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1