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Hydrolase is a class of enzyme that commonly perform as biochemical catalysts that use water to break a chemical bond, which typically results in dividing a larger molecule into smaller molecules. Some common examples of hydrolase enzymes are esterases including lipases, phosphatases, glycosidases, peptidases, and nucleosidases.


Esterases cleave ester bonds in lipids and phosphatases cleave phosphate groups off molecules. An example of crucial esterase is acetylcholine esterase, which assists in transforming the neuron impulse into the acetate group after the hydrolase breaks the acetylcholine into choline and acetic acid. [1] Acetic acid is an important metabolite in the body and a critical intermediate for other reactions such as glycolysis. Lipases hydrolyze glycerides. Glycosidases cleave sugar molecules off carbohydrates and peptidases hydrolyze peptide bonds. Nucleosidases hydrolyze the bonds of nucleotides. [2]

Hydrolase enzymes are important for the body because they have degradative properties. In lipids, lipases contribute to the breakdown of fats and lipoproteins and other larger molecules into smaller molecules like fatty acids and glycerol. Fatty acids and other small molecules are used for synthesis and as a source of energy. [1]

In biochemistry, a hydrolase is an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of a chemical bond. For example, any enzyme that catalyzes the following reaction is a hydrolase:

AB + H2O → AOH + BH

where AB represents a chemical bond of unspecified molecules.


Systematic names of hydrolases are formed as "substrate hydrolase." However, common names are typically in the form "substrate base." For example, a nuclease is a hydrolase that cleaves nucleic acids.


Hydrolases are classified as EC 3 in the EC number classification of enzymes. Hydrolases can be further classified into several subclasses, based upon the bonds they act upon:

Clinical considerations

Hydrolase secreted by Lactobacillus jensenii in the human gut stimulates the liver to secrete bile salts that aids in the digestion of food. [3]

Membrane-associated hydrolases

Many hydrolases, and especially proteases associate with biological membranes as peripheral membrane proteins or anchored through a single transmembrane helix. [4] Some others are multi-span transmembrane proteins, for example rhomboid protease.

Etymology and pronunciation

The word hydrolase ( /ˈhdrls,-lz/ ) suffixes the combining form of -ase to the hydrol syllables of hydrolysis .

See also

Related Research Articles

Chymotrypsin Digestive enzyme

Chymotrypsin (EC, chymotrypsins A and B, alpha-chymar ophth, avazyme, chymar, chymotest, enzeon, quimar, quimotrase, alpha-chymar, alpha-chymotrypsin A, alpha-chymotrypsin) is a digestive enzyme component of pancreatic juice acting in the duodenum, where it performs proteolysis, the breakdown of proteins and polypeptides. Chymotrypsin preferentially cleaves peptide amide bonds where the side chain of the amino acid N-terminal to the scissile amide bond (the P1 position) is a large hydrophobic amino acid (tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine). These amino acids contain an aromatic ring in their side chain that fits into a hydrophobic pocket (the S1 position) of the enzyme. It is activated in the presence of trypsin. The hydrophobic and shape complementarity between the peptide substrate P1 side chain and the enzyme S1 binding cavity accounts for the substrate specificity of this enzyme. Chymotrypsin also hydrolyzes other amide bonds in peptides at slower rates, particularly those containing leucine and methionine at the P1 position.

Hydrolysis is any chemical reaction in which a molecule of water breaks one or more chemical bonds. The term is used broadly for substitution, elimination, and solvation reactions in which water is the nucleophile.

In biochemistry, a ligase is an enzyme that can catalyze the joining (ligation) of two large molecules by forming a new chemical bond. This is typically via hydrolysis of a small pendant chemical group on one of the larger molecules or the enzyme catalyzing the linking together of two compounds, e.g., enzymes that catalyze joining of C-O, C-S, C-N, etc. In general, a ligase catalyzes the following reaction:

Proteolysis Breakdown of proteins into smaller polypeptides or amino acids

Proteolysis is the breakdown of proteins into smaller polypeptides or amino acids. Uncatalysed, the hydrolysis of peptide bonds is extremely slow, taking hundreds of years. Proteolysis is typically catalysed by cellular enzymes called proteases, but may also occur by intra-molecular digestion.

Protease Enzyme that cleaves other proteins into smaller peptides

A protease is an enzyme that catalyzes proteolysis, breaking down proteins into smaller polypeptides or single amino acids, and spurring the formation of new protein products. They do this by cleaving the peptide bonds within proteins by hydrolysis, a reaction where water breaks bonds. Proteases are involved in many biological functions, including digestion of ingested proteins, protein catabolism, and cell signaling.

A glycosidic bond or glycosidic linkage is a type of covalent bond that joins a carbohydrate (sugar) molecule to another group, which may or may not be another carbohydrate.

Nuclease Class of enzymes

A nuclease is an enzyme capable of cleaving the phosphodiester bonds between nucleotides of nucleic acids. Nucleases variously effect single and double stranded breaks in their target molecules. In living organisms, they are essential machinery for many aspects of DNA repair. Defects in certain nucleases can cause genetic instability or immunodeficiency. Nucleases are also extensively used in molecular cloning.

An acid hydrolase is an enzyme that works best at acidic pHs. It is commonly located in lysosomes, which are acidic on the inside. Acid hydrolases may be nucleases, proteases, glycosidases, lipases, phosphatases, sulfatases and phospholipases and make up the approximately 50 degradative enzymes of the lysosome that break apart biological matter.

In biochemistry, a lyase is an enzyme that catalyzes the breaking of various chemical bonds by means other than hydrolysis and oxidation, often forming a new double bond or a new ring structure. The reverse reaction is also possible. For example, an enzyme that catalyzed this reaction would be a lyase:

Serine protease Class of enzymes

Serine proteases are enzymes that cleave peptide bonds in proteins. Serine serves as the nucleophilic amino acid at the (enzyme's) active site. They are found ubiquitously in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes. Serine proteases fall into two broad categories based on their structure: chymotrypsin-like (trypsin-like) or subtilisin-like.

Digestive enzyme Class of enzymes

Digestive enzymes are a group of enzymes that break down polymeric macromolecules into their smaller building blocks, in order to facilitate their absorption by the body. Digestive enzymes are found in the digestive tracts of animals and in the tracts of carnivorous plants, where they aid in the digestion of food, as well as inside cells, especially in their lysosomes, where they function to maintain cellular survival. Digestive enzymes of diverse specificities are found in the saliva secreted by the salivary glands, in the secretions of cells lining the stomach, in the pancreatic juice secreted by pancreatic exocrine cells, and in the secretions of cells lining the small and large intestines.

Catalytic triad Set of three coordinated amino acids

A catalytic triad is a set of three coordinated amino acids that can be found in the active site of some enzymes. Catalytic triads are most commonly found in hydrolase and transferase enzymes. An acid-base-nucleophile triad is a common motif for generating a nucleophilic residue for covalent catalysis. The residues form a charge-relay network to polarise and activate the nucleophile, which attacks the substrate, forming a covalent intermediate which is then hydrolysed to release the product and regenerate free enzyme. The nucleophile is most commonly a serine or cysteine amino acid, but occasionally threonine or even selenocysteine. The 3D structure of the enzyme brings together the triad residues in a precise orientation, even though they may be far apart in the sequence.

Cyanogen bromide is the inorganic compound with the formula (CN)Br or BrCN. It is a colorless solid that is widely used to modify biopolymers, fragment proteins and peptides, and synthesize other compounds. The compound is classified as a pseudohalogen.

An esterase is a hydrolase enzyme that splits esters into an acid and an alcohol in a chemical reaction with water called hydrolysis.

Protein metabolism denotes the various biochemical processes responsible for the synthesis of proteins and amino acids (anabolism), and the breakdown of proteins by catabolism.

Serine hydrolases are one of the largest known enzyme classes comprising approximately ~200 enzymes or 1% of the genes in the human proteome. A defining characteristic of these enzymes is the presence of a particular serine at the active site, which is used for the hydrolysis of substrates. The hydrolysis of the ester or peptide bond proceeds in two steps. First, the acyl part of the substrate is transferred to the serine, making a new ester or amide bond and releasing the other part of the substrate is released. Later, in a slower step, the bond between the serine and the acyl group is hydrolyzed by water or hydroxide ion, regenerating free enzyme. Unlike other, non-catalytic, serines, the reactive serine of these hydrolases is typically activated by a proton relay involving a catalytic triad consisting of the serine, an acidic residue and a basic residue, although variations on this mechanism exist.

Lysosomal lipase is a form of lipase which functions intracellularly, in the lysosomes.

N-acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine amidase

In enzymology, a N-acetylmuramoyl-L-alanine amidase is an enzyme that catalyzes a chemical reaction that cleaves the link between N-acetylmuramoyl residues and L-amino acid residues in certain cell-wall glycopeptides.

In enzymology, a glycosphingolipid deacylase is an enzyme that catalyzes a chemical reaction that cleaves gangliosides and neutral glycosphingolipids, releasing fatty acids to form the lyso-derivatives.


  1. 1 2 "Hydrolase - Chemistry Encyclopedia - water, examples, molecule". www.chemistryexplained.com. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  2. "hydrolase | class of enzymes | Britannica". www.britannica.com. 9 April 2018. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  3. Prince, Amanda L.; Antony, Kathleen M.; Chu, Derrick M.; Aagaard, Kjersti M. (2014). "The microbiome, parturition, and timing of birth: more questions than answers". Journal of Reproductive Immunology. 104–105: 12–19. doi:10.1016/j.jri.2014.03.006. ISSN   0165-0378. PMC   4157949 . PMID   24793619.
  4. "Superfamilies of single-pass transmembrane hydrolases". membranome.org. July 2018. Archived from the original on 8 March 2022. Retrieved 23 July 2018.