Role of Digestive Enzymes


Food acts as a source of energy for human beings. It consists of major components like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The natural form of these major components cannot be digested by human beings. So, these complex components like carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are converted into simpler molecules by the process called digestion. In the process of digestion, different types of digestive enzymes and gastrointestinal hormones are present, which play an important role in converting complex substances into simpler substances. Let us take an overview of digestive enzymes and gastrointestinal hormones and their role in digestion.

Also Refer:Digestion

What is Digestion?

Digestion is achieved by different mechanical and chemical processes. The mechanical processes of digestion are accomplished by the buccal cavity. The two main functions of the mouth and buccal cavity  are as follows:

  1. Food mastication – It can be achieved with the help of teeth, tongue, and saliva.
  2. Lubrication of food – Masticated food is converted into the bolus with the help of saliva, which lubricates the food substances.

Also, Read Digestive System In Humans

Role of Enzymes and Hormones in Digestion

Chemical processes are achieved by the following enzymes and hormones.

Salivary Amylases and Lysozymes

These enzymes are produced by the oral cavity. The main function of these enzymes is to split the carbohydrates by hydrolytic actions. The function of these enzymes are as follows:

  1. Salivary amylases – 30% of starch molecules are converted into maltose by salivary amylases at the pH of 6.8.
  2. Lysozymes – These act against bacterial infections. They are also called antibacterial agents.

Explore more: Lysozymes

Gastric Glands

Gastric glands are present in the mucosa of the stomach. The following types of cells are present in the gastric gland.

  1. Mucous neck cells – These cells secrete mucus, which is used to protect the mucosal epithelium from concentrated HCl. This concentrated HCl is secreted by the oxyntic cells.
  2. Peptic or chief cells – These cells secrete the proenzyme pepsinogen. It is in an inactive form. This inactive proenzyme pepsinogen is activated by HCl and converted into the active form of the enzyme, which is called pepsin. Pepsin is used to convert proteins into proteases and peptones.
  3. Parietal or oxyntic cells – These cells secrete concentrated HCl and intrinsic factors. The intrinsic factor plays an important role in the absorption of vitamin B12. HCL is used to activate the proenzyme pepsinogen.

Finally, the following enzymes are secreted by gastric glands:

  1. Pepsin – It is used to cleave the proteins into peptones and proteases.
  2. Rennin – It is a type of proteolytic enzyme which is present in the infant’s gastric juice.
  3. Lipase – Small amount of lipase enzyme is secreted by the gastric gland. It is used to convert fats to di and monoglycerides.

Read More: Enzymes

Small Intestine Enzymes

In the small intestine, three major digestive juices are secreted. These are as follows:

  1. Bile juice
  2. Pancreatic juice
  3. Intestinal juice

Bile Juice

Bile juice is secreted by the liver. It is a yellowish colour fluid. The main function of bile juice is to digest the lipid molecules and activate the lipase enzymes. Bile juice consists of the following components:

  1. Bilirubin and biliverdin
  2. Bile salts
  3. Cholesterol
  4. Phospholipids.

Bile juice helps in the emulsification of fats and also activates the lipase enzyme.

Pancreatic Juice

The pancreatic juices are secreted by the pancreas. Pancreatic juice consists of the following inactive enzymes. These enzymes are activated by the intestinal mucosal secretions.

  1. Trypsinogen – An inactive form of trypsinogen is converted into an active form, trypsin by enterokinase (one of the intestinal mucosa secretions). Trypsin is used to convert the protein molecules into dipeptides.
  2. Chymotrypsinogen – An inactive form of chymotrypsinogen is converted into an active form, chymotrypsin. Proteins are cleaved into dipeptides by chymotrypsin.
  3. Procarboxypeptidases – An Inactive form of procarboxypeptidase is converted into an active form, carboxypeptidase. Carboxypeptidase is also used to cleave the protein.
  4. Amylases – Amylases are used to cleave polysaccharides into disaccharides.
  5. Lipases – Lipases are used to convert fats into diglycerides and monoglycerides.
  6. Nucleases – Nucleases are used to convert nucleic acids into nucleotides and nucleosides.

Intestinal Juice

The Intestinal mucous epithelium of the small intestine consists of the following:

  1. Brush border cells.
  2. Goblet cells.

The secretions of brush border cells and goblet cells from the intestinal juice in the small intestine. Intestinal juice consists of the following enzymes:

  1. Disaccharidases – It is also called maltases. Maltases are used to convert maltose into glucose.
  2. Dipeptidases – These enzymes are used to convert the dipeptides into simple amino acids.
  3. Lipases – Lipases are used to convert diglycerides and monoglycerides into fatty acids and glycerols.
  4. Nucleosidases – These enzymes are used to convert nucleotides into nucleosides, sugars, and bases.
  5. Lactases – Lactases are used to convert lactose into simple glucose.

Along with digestive enzymes, hormones also play an important role in digestion.

Read more about- Digestion and Absorption

To know more about digestive enzymes and hormones, visit BYJU’S Biology.

Frequently Asked Questions


Which enzyme breaks down fat?

Lipase enzymes break down fat molecules.


What is the nature of digestive juices in the stomach?

The digestive juice produced in the stomach is highly acidic because of the presence of hydrochloric acid and various enzymes.


Who invented enzymes?

Anselme Payen, a French chemist was the first person to discover the enzyme diastase in 1833.


what role does bile play in digestion?

Bile helps in digestion by breaking down fats into fatty acids, so that they can be taken into the body through the digestive tract.

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