Some lipases are expressed and secreted by pathogenic organisms during an infection. In particular, Candida albicans has many different lipases, possibly reflecting broad-lipolytic activity, which may contribute to the persistence and virulence of C. albicans in human tissue.
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 effects of injury and inflammation delivered by a sting.
Pancreatic lipase related protein 1 is very similar to PLRP2 and PL by amino acid sequence (all three genes probably arose via gene duplication of a single ancestral pancreatic lipase gene). However, PLRP1 is devoid of detectable lipase activity and its function remains unknown, even though it is conserved in other mammals.
There also are a diverse array of phospholipases, but these are not always classified with the other lipases.
Lipases 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. High enzyme activity lipase can replace traditional catalyst in processing biodiesel, as this enzyme replaces chemicals in a process which is otherwise highly energy intensive, and can be more environmentally friendly and safe. Industrial application of lipases requires process intensification for continuous processing using tools like continuous flow microreactors at small scale. Lipases are generally animal sourced, but can also be sourced microbially.
Blood tests for lipase may be used to help investigate and diagnose acute pancreatitis and other disorders of the pancreas. Measured serum lipase values may vary depending on the method of analysis.
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