Lipase in aqueous-polar organic solvents: Activity, structure, and stability


Correspondence to: Md. Zahid Kamal, Nalam Madhusudhana Rao, W112, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Uppal Road, Hyderabad-500007, Andhra Pradesh, India. E-mail:;


Studying alterations in biophysical and biochemical behavior of enzymes in the presence of organic solvents and the underlying cause(s) has important implications in biotechnology. We investigated the effects of aqueous solutions of polar organic solvents on ester hydrolytic activity, structure and stability of a lipase. Relative activity of the lipase monotonically decreased with increasing concentration of acetone, acetonitrile, and DMF but increased at lower concentrations (upto ∼20% v/v) of dimethylsulfoxide, isopropanol, and methanol. None of the organic solvents caused any appreciable structural change as evident from circular dichorism and NMR studies, thus do not support any significant role of enzyme denaturation in activity change. Change in 2D [15N, 1H]-HSQC chemical shifts suggested that all the organic solvents preferentially localize to a hydrophobic patch in the active-site vicinity and no chemical shift perturbation was observed for residues present in protein's core. This suggests that activity alteration might be directly linked to change in active site environment only. All organic solvents decreased the apparent binding of substrate to the enzyme (increased Km); however significantly enhanced the kcat. Melting temperature (Tm) of lipase, measured by circular dichroism and differential scanning calorimetry, altered in all solvents, albeit to a variable extent. Interestingly, although the effect of all organic solvents on various properties on lipase is qualitatively similar, our study suggest that magnitudes of effects do not appear to follow bulk solvent properties like polarity and the solvent effects are apparently dictated by specific and local interactions of solvent molecule(s) with the protein.