Bacteria produce and secrete lipases, which can catalyze both the hydrolysis and the synthesis of long-chain acylglycerols. These reactions usually proceed with high regioselectivity and enantioselectivity, and, therefore, lipases have become very important stereoselective biocatalysts used in organic chemistry. High-level production of these biocatalysts requires the understanding of the mechanisms underlying gene expression, folding, and secretion. Transcription of lipase genes may be regulated by quorum sensing and two-component systems; secretion can proceed either via the Sec-dependent general secretory pathway or via ABC transporters. In addition, some lipases need folding catalysts such as the lipase-specific foldases and disulfide-bond–forming proteins to achieve a secretion-competent conformation. Three-dimensional structures of bacterial lipases were solved to understand the catalytic mechanism of lipase reactions. Structural characteristics include an α/β hydrolase fold, a catalytic triad consisting of a nucleophilic serine located in a highly conserved Gly-X-Ser-X-Gly pentapeptide, and an aspartate or glutamate residue that is hydrogen bonded to a histidine. Four substrate binding pockets were identified for triglycerides: an oxyanion hole and three pockets accommodating the fatty acids bound at positions -1, -2, and -3. The differences in size and the hydrophilicity/hydrophobicity of these pockets determine the enantiopreference of a lipase. The understanding of structure-function relationships will enable researchers to tailor new lipases for biotechnological applications. At the same time, directed evolution in combination with appropriate screening systems will be used extensively as a novel approach to develop lipases with high stability and enantioselectivity.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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