An Explanation of Hydrolysis

What You Need to Know About Hydrolysis

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Hydrolysis is chemical reaction in which water is used to break the bonds of certain substances. In biotechnology and living organisms, these substances are often polymers.

The word is derived from hydro, Greek for water, and lysis, which means "to unbind." Hydrolysis means the separation of chemicals when added to water. The three main types of hydrolysis are salt, acid, and base hydrolysis.

Hydrolysis also can be thought of as the opposite of a reaction to condensation whereby two molecules combine to form one larger molecule.

In doing this the larger molecule ejects a water molecule. Think of it this way: hydrolysis uses water to break down; condensation, on the other hand, grows by removing water.

3 Common Types of Hydrolysis

  • Salts: Hydrolysis occurs when salt from a weak base or acid dissolves in liquid.
  • Acid: Water can act as an acid or a base, according to the Bronsted-Lowry acid theory. In this case, the water molecule would give away a proton.
  • Base: This reaction will be similar to the hydrolysis for base dissociation. A base that often dissociates in water is ammonia.

What Is a Hydrolysis Reaction?

In a hydrolysis reaction involving an ester link, such as that found between two amino acids in a protein, the products that result include one that receives the hydroxyl (OH) group from the water molecule, and another that becomes a carboxylic acid with the addition of the remaining proton (H+).

Hydrolysis Reactions in Living Organisms

Hydrolysis reactions in living organisms are performed with the help of catalysis by a class of enzymes known as hydrolases.

The biochemical reactions that break down polymers, such as proteins (peptide bonds between amino acids), nucleotides, complex sugars and starch, and fats are catalyzed by this class of enzymes. Within this class, lipases, amylases and proteinases hydrolyze fats, sugars and proteins, respectively.

Cellulose-degrading bacteria and fungi play a special role in paper production and other everyday biotechnology applications, because they have enzymes (cellulases and esterases) that can break cellulose into polysaccharides (polymers of sugar molecules) or glucose, and break down stickies.

For example, Proteinase was added to the cell extract, in order to hydrolyze the peptides and produce a mixture of free amino acids.

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