The Laboratory of Enzymology at Interfaces and Physiology of Lipolysis (EIPL) is a mixed research unit (UMR7282) of Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Aix-Marseille University (AMU) located on the CNRS Joseph Aiguier campus in Marseille. Along with four other laboratories, the EIPL forms the IMM federative research institute (FR3479 Institut de Microbiologie de la Méditerranée). In the framework of the 'Lipidomics' approach in France, EIPL became a member of Institut Multidisciplinaire de Biochimie des Lipides (IMBL, Lyon) on january 2005. Since 2007, EIPL belongs to the Institut Carnot LISA (Lipids for Industry, Health and Nutrition) also including laboratories from IMBL in Lyon, from ITERG (Bordeaux) and from Bordeaux I University.
The themes on which we are focusing at this laboratory are in line with the work of the Lipolytic Enzyme Laboratory (LLE) created by Robert Verger in 1992, which won international recognition in the field of interface enzymology. One of our specificities is the development and use of techniques for studying lipid/protein interactions and interfacial enzyme kinetics (such as tensiometric methods for studying the adsorption of amphiphilic proteins and molecules at air/water interfaces, monomolecular film techniques, lipase assays including assays using natural triglycerides for HTS). At our Laboratory, biochemists are working side by side with physicians (gastroenterology) on topics such as gastrointestinal lipolysis, ranging from the lipase molecular aspects to clinical trials on healthy human subjects and patients. These concerted efforts are quite unique and their merits has been recognized by several pharmaceutical companies (Roche, Solvay Pharmaceuticals, Aventis, Novo Nordisk, Meristem Therapeutics, Laboratoires Jouveinal, Takeda, Mayoly Spindler). They have led to the development of some useful tools for investigating lipolytic processes in vivo, which have been used in studies on lipase inhibitors for reducing obesity (Orlistat®) and enzyme substitution therapies for treating pancreatic insufficiency. The multidisciplinary approach adopted by the EIPL involves know-how in two scientific fields which have been associated with the city of Marseille ever since the 1950s: the biochemistry of lipolytic enzymes and the physiology of the pancreas. Studies on these lines were first launched by Professor Pierre Desnuelle and Professor Henri Sarles, respectively.
At the molecular level, the aim of our basic research projects is to elucidate the processes underlying the two main stages in enzymatic lipolysis: the adsorption of lipases onto lipid/water interfaces and substrate hydrolysis. The specific modes of action of lipases can depend on either of these two stages. Understanding the functional specificities of lipases and finding ways of adapting them as required is a major challenge, since lipases have many potential biotechnological applications (detergents, structured fats and oils, fine chemistry, etc.) as well as medical applications (means of improving digestion and combating obesity). In the latter respect, our laboratoire is particularly interested in digestive (pancreatic and gastric) lipases, but is also working on some other lipolytic enzymes involved in the metabolism of lipids and lipoproteins, such hormone-sensitive lipase and phospholipases A1.
We are also developing research projects involving the application of microbial lipases in the fields of biotechnology, human health and environmental protection. Since 2006, EIPL has strengthened its R&D on microbial lipases and is currently working in collaboration with the firm GERME SA (in the framework of a cooperative laboratory contract) on the development of lipases and lipase inhibitor from microbial origin for various applications.
Finally, EIPL studies the relationships between lipolysis and bacterial pathogenicity, a main objective being the characterization and inhibition of lipases from Mycobacterium tuberculosis which are identified using a structural genomics approach and which might be potential targets for developping new anti-microbial agents.