Fat digestion by lingual lipase: mechanism of lipolysis in the stomach and upper small intestine

Pediatr Res. 1984 May;18(5):402-9. doi: 10.1203/00006450-198405000-00002.


Ten to 30% of dietary fat is hydrolyzed in the stomach by lingual lipase, an enzyme secreted from lingual serous glands. We investigated the substrate specificity of this enzyme as well as the potential of lingual lipase to act in the upper small intestine i.e., in the presence of bile salts and lecithin. The data presented show that partially purified preparations of rat lingual lipase and the lipase in gastric aspirates of newborn infants have identical substrate specificity: medium-chain triglycerides were hydrolyzed at rates 5-8-fold higher than long-chain triglycerides; the rat and human enzymes do not hydrolyze the ester bond of lecithin or cholesteryl-ester. In contrast to pancreatic lipase, the hydrolysis of triglycerides by lingual lipase is not inhibited by lecithin. But, similar to pancreatic lipase the activity of lingual lipase is inhibited by bile salts, the extent of inhibition varying with its nature and concentration. This inactivation is not prevented by colipase but is partially averted by lipids and protein, suggesting that lingual lipase can remain active in the duodenum. The pH optimum of the enzyme (2.2-6.5 in the rat and 3.5-6.0 in human gastric aspirates) is compatible with continued activity in the upper small intestine, especially during the neonatal period, when the luminal pH is under 6.5. The marked variation in lipase activity levels in gastric aspirates of newborn infants is probably due to individual variations in enzyme amounts. The characteristics of the lipase are however identical in infants with low, intermediate or high activity levels.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Albumins / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Bile Acids and Salts / pharmacology
  • Dietary Fats / metabolism*
  • Duodenum / metabolism
  • Gastric Mucosa / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intestine, Small / metabolism*
  • Lipase / metabolism*
  • Lipolysis*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Tongue / enzymology*
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Albumins
  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Dietary Fats
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Triglycerides
  • Lipase