Applied and environmental microbiology

Application of a specific and sensitive radiometric assay for microbial lipase activities in marine water samples from the lagoon of nouméa.

PMID 14660390


Marine microbiologists commonly assay lipase activities by using a synthetic fluorescent analog, 4-methylumbelliferyl (MUF)-oleate. The technique is convenient, but it is considered to be unspecific because of the structure of this analog. This study reports the design of a new specific and sensitive lipase assay based on the use of a radiolabeled triglyceride, [3H]triolein. Free fatty acids (FFA) resulting from its hydrolysis are isolated as a function of time in a one-step liquid-liquid extraction and then radioassayed. MUF-oleate and [3H]triolein techniques were compared by measuring lipase activities at similar substrate concentrations along a trophic gradient in the Southwest Lagoon of New Caledonia, near Nouméa. Hydrolysis rates decreased from the nearshore station to the offshore station and showed similar trends regardless of the technique used. Rates decreased from 5.83 to 0.88 nmol of FFA. liter-1. h-1 and from 0.76 to 0.23 nmol of 3H-FFA. liter-1. h-1, respectively. These results appeared to be consistent with bacterial production results, which also decreased similarly (from 0.59 to 0.26 micrograms of C. liter-1. h-1). However, the ratio of MUF-oleate activities to [3H]triolein activities, which was constant at the offshore stations (3.8 +/- 0.1), gradually increased at the nearshore stations (from 4.1 to 7.6). This result shows that the two assays respond in different ways to changes in environmental conditions and validates the need to set up more specific enzymatic assays.

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4-Methylumbelliferyl oleate, suitable for fluorescence, ≥95% (HPCE)