Lipases: Digestion of Neutral Lipids; Physiological and Pathological Implications


Fat digestion is a complex process that starts in the stomach through the action of gastric lipase and continues in the intestine, where colipase‐dependent pancreatic lipase and cholesterol ester lipase complete the process of triglyceride and cholesteryl ester hydrolysis, respectively. Bile salts and partial products of triglyceride hydrolysis are essential for the emulsification of these nonpolar lipids in the aqueous milieu of the intestinal lumen.

Keywords: gastric lipase; pancreatic lipases; colipase; milk lipase; newborns

Figure 1.

Stereospecificity and products of fat hydrolysis. Sn‐1, Sn‐2 and Sn‐3 are the three hydroxyl sites of the glycerol molecule to which fatty acids (R) are esterified in triglycerides. FFA: .



Abrams CK, Hamosh M, Hubbard VS, Dutta SK and Hamosh P (1984) Lingual lipase in cystic fibrosis. Quantitation of enzyme activity in the upper small intestine of patients with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Journal of Clinical Investigation 73: 374–382.

Bruneau N, Lombardo D and Bendayan M (2000) The affinity binding sites of pancreatic bile salt dependent lipase in pancreatic and intestinal tissues. Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry 48: 267–276.

Carriere F, Withers‐Martinez C, van Tilbeurgh H et al. (1998) Structural basis for the substrate selectivity of pancreatic lipases and some related proteins. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1376: 417–432.

Hamosh M (1990) Lingual and Gastric Lipases: Their Role in Fat Digestion. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Hamosh M (1994a) Gastric and lingual lipases. In: Johnson L (ed.) Physiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract, 3rd edn, pp. 1239–1253. New York: Raven Press.

Hamosh M (1994b) Digestion in the premature infant. The effect of human milk. Seminars in Perinatology 18: 485–494.

Hamosh M (1995) Lipid metabolism in pediatric nutrition. Pediatric Clinics of North America 42: 839–859.

Hamosh M (2000) Preduodenal fat digestion. In: Christopher AB and De Vriese S (eds) Fat Digestion and Absorption, pp. 1–12. Champaign, IL: American Oil Chemical Society.

Hamosh M and Hamosh P (1996) Selectivity of lipase: developmental physiology aspects. In: Malcata FX (ed.) Engineering of/with Lipases, NATO ASI Series E, Applied Sciences, vol. 317, pp. 31–49. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Hamosh M and Hamosh P (2000) Development of secreted digestive enzymes. In: Sanderson IR and Walker WA (eds) Development of the Gastrointestinal Tract, pp. 261–277. Hamilton, Ontario: BC Dekker.

Hamosh M, Klaeveman HL, Wolf RO and Scow RO (1975) Pharyngeal lipase and digestion of dietary triglyceride in man. Journal of Clinical Investigation 55: 907–913.

Howles PN, Stemmerman GN, Fenoglio‐Preiser CM and Hui DY (1999) Carboxylester lipase activity in milk prevents fat‐derived intestinal injury in neonatal mice. American Journal of Physiology 277: G653–G661.

Hui DY (1996) Molecular biology of enzymes involved with cholesterol ester hydrolysis in mammalian tissues. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1303: 1–14.

Lairon D (1997) Soluble fibers and dietary lipids. In: Krichesky D and Bonfield C (eds) Dietary Fiber in Health and Disease, pp. 99–108. New York: Plenum Press.

Lowe ME (1997) Structure and function of pancreatic lipase and colipase. Annual Review of Nutrition 17: 141–158.

Sbarra V, Bruneau N, Mas E et al. (1998) Molecular cloning of the bile salt‐dependent lipase of ferret lactating mammary gland: an overview of functional residues. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 80–89.

Verger R, Aoubala M, Carriere F et al. (1996) Regulation of lumen fat digestion: enzymic aspects. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 55: 5–18.

Yang Y, Sanchez D, Figarella C and Lowe ME (2000) Discoordinate expression of pancreatic lipase and two related proteins in the human fetal pancreas. Pediatric Research 47: 184–188.

Further Reading

Armand M, Hamosh M, DiPalma JS et al. (1995) Dietary fat modulates gastric lipase activity in healthy humans. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 61: 74–80.

Bergstrom B and Brockman HL (1984) Lipases. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Christophe AB and De Vriese S (eds) (2000) Fat Digestion and Absorption. Champaign, IL: AOCS Press.

Hamosh M (1988) Fat needs for term and preterm infants. In: Tsang RC and Nichols BL (eds). Nutrition During Infancy, pp. 133–159. Philadelphia: Hanley & Belfus.

Hamosh M, Iverson SJ, Kirk CL et al. (1994) Milk lipids and neonatal fat digestion: relationships between fatty acid composition and endogenous and exogenous digestive enzymes and digestion of milk fat. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics 75: 86–91.

Johnson L (ed.) (1994) Physiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract, 3rd edn. New York: Raven Press.

Lombardo D (2001) Bile salt dependent lipase: its pathophysiological implications. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1533: 1–28.

Lowe ME (1997) Molecular mechanisms of rat and human pancreatic triglyceride lipase. Journal of Nutrition 127: 549–557.

Mansbach C, Tso P and Kuksis A (eds) (1999) Intestinal Lipid Absorption, Metabolism and Transport. New York: Marcel Dekker.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Hamosh, Margit(Sep 2005) Lipases: Digestion of Neutral Lipids; Physiological and Pathological Implications. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001395]