Biology Prefixes and Suffixes: -ase

Computer illustration of a DNA Polymerase molecule
DNA polymerase molecule.

Callista Image / Getty Images

The suffix "-ase" is used to signify an enzyme. In enzyme naming, an enzyme is denoted by adding -ase to the end of the name of the substrate on which the enzyme acts. It is also used to identify a particular class of enzymes that catalyze a specific type of reaction.

Examples of "Ase" Suffixes

Below, find some examples of words ending in -ase, along with a breakdown of different root words in their name and their definition.

A: Acetylcholinesterase to C: Collagenase

Acetylcholinesterase (acetyl-cholin-ester-ase): This nervous system enzyme, also present in muscle tissue and red blood cells, catalyzes the hydrolysis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. It functions to inhibit the stimulation of muscle fibers.

Amylase (amyl-ase): Amylase is a digestive enzyme that catalyzes the decomposition of starch into sugar. It is produced in salivary glands and the pancreas.

Carboxylase (carboxyl-ase): This class of enzymes catalyze the release of carbon dioxide from certain organic acids.

Collagenase (collagen-ase): Collagenases are enzymes that degrade collagen. They function in wound repair and are used to treat some connective tissue diseases.

D: Dehydrogenase to H: Hydrolase

Dehydrogenase (de-hydrogen-ase): Dehydrogenase enzymes promote the removal and transfer of hydrogen from one biological molecule to another. Alcohol dehydrogenase, found abundantly in the liver, catalyzes the oxidation of alcohol to aid in alcohol detoxification.

Deoxyribonuclease (de-oxy-ribo-nucle-ase): This enzyme degrades DNA by catalyzing the breaking of phosphodiester bonds in the sugar-phosphate backbone of DNA. It is involved in the destruction of DNA that occurs during apoptosis (programmed cell death).

Endonuclease (endo-nucle-ase): This enzyme breaks bonds within nucleotide chains of DNA and RNA molecules. Bacteria use endonucleases to cleave DNA from invading viruses.

Histaminase (histamin-ase): Found in the digestive system, this enzyme catalyzes the removal of the amino group from histamine. Histamine is released during an allergic reaction and promotes an inflammatory response. Histaminase inactivates histamine and is used in the treatment of allergies.

Hydrolase (hydro-lase): This class of enzymes catalyzes the hydrolysis of a compound. In hydrolysis, water is used to break chemical bonds and split compounds into other compounds. Examples of hydrolases include lipases, esterases, and proteases.

I: Isomerase to N: Nuclease

Isomerase (isomer-ase): This class of enzymes catalyzes reactions that structurally rearrange the atoms in a molecule changing it from one isomer to another.

Lactase (lact-ase): Lactase is an enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of lactose to glucose and galactose. This enzyme is found in high concentrations in the liver, kidneys, and mucous lining of the intestines.

Ligase (lig-ase): Ligase is a type of enzyme that catalyzes the joining together of molecules. For example, DNA ligase joins DNA fragments together during DNA replication.

Lipase (lip-ase): Lipase enzymes break down fats and lipids. An important digestive enzyme, lipase converts triglycerides into fatty acids and glycerol. Lipase is produced mainly in the pancreas, mouth, and stomach.

Maltase (malt-ase): This enzyme converts the disaccharide maltose to glucose. It is produced in the intestines and used in the digestion of carbohydrates.

Nuclease (nucle-ase): This group of enzymes catalyzes the hydrolysis of bonds between nucleotide bases in nucleic acids. Nucleases split DNA and RNA molecules and are important for DNA replication and repair.

P: Peptidase to T: Transferase

Peptidase (peptid-ase): Also called protease, peptidase enzymes break peptide bonds in proteins, thereby forming amino acids. Peptidases function in the digestive system, immune system, and blood circulatory system.

Phospholipase (phospho-lip-ase): The conversion of phospholipids to fatty acids by the addition of water is catalyzed by a group of enzymes called phospholipases. These enzymes play an important role in cell signaling, digestion, and cell membrane function.

Polymerase (polymer-ase): Polymerase is a group of enzymes that builds polymers of nucleic acids. These enzymes make copies of DNA and RNA molecules, which is required for cell division and protein synthesis.

Ribonuclease (ribo-nucle-ase): This class of enzymes catalyzes the break down of RNA molecules. Ribonucleases inhibit protein synthesis, promote apoptosis, and protect against RNA viruses.

Sucrase (sucr-ase): This group of enzymes catalyzes the decomposition of sucrose to glucose and fructose. Sucrase is produced in the small intestine and aids in the digestion of sugar. Yeasts also produce sucrase.

Transcriptase (transcript-ase): Transcriptase enzymes catalyze DNA transcription by producing RNA from a DNA template. Some viruses (retroviruses) have the enzyme reverse transcriptase, which makes DNA from an RNA template.

Transferase (transfer-ase): This class of enzymes aids in the transfer of a chemical group, such as an amino group, from one molecule to another. Kinases are examples of transferase enzymes that transfer phosphate groups during phosphorylation.

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Bailey, Regina. "Biology Prefixes and Suffixes: -ase." ThoughtCo, Jul. 29, 2021, Bailey, Regina. (2021, July 29). Biology Prefixes and Suffixes: -ase. Retrieved from Bailey, Regina. "Biology Prefixes and Suffixes: -ase." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 24, 2023).