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LIPA gene

lipase A, lysosomal acid type

Normal Function

The LIPA gene provides instructions for producing an enzyme called lysosomal acid lipase. This enzyme is found in cell compartments called lysosomes, which digest and recycle materials the cell no longer needs. Lysosomal acid lipase breaks down fats (lipids) such as triglycerides and cholesteryl esters. Cholesteryl esters are made up of two lipids that are attached to each other, cholesterol and a fatty acid. Lysosomal acid lipase separates the cholesterol from the fatty acid. Triglycerides are stored fats that can be broken down into fatty acids that are used for energy. The lipids produced from these processes are used by the body or transported to the liver for removal.

Health Conditions Related to Genetic Changes

Lysosomal acid lipase deficiency

Approximately 60 mutations in the LIPA gene have been found to cause lysosomal acid lipase deficiency. This inherited condition is characterized by the accumulation of harmful amounts of lipids in cells and tissues throughout the body. Mutations in the LIPA gene lead to a shortage (deficiency) of functional lysosomal acid lipase. The severity of the condition depends on how much working enzyme is available. In individuals with a complete loss of enzyme activity, the condition begins in infancy and is often fatal. In individuals with some remaining enzyme activity, the amount of enzyme activity generally determines the severity of the condition.

The most common LIPA gene mutation, found in about half of individuals with lysosomal acid lipase deficiency that begins in childhood or later, disrupts the way the gene's instructions are used to make lysosomal acid lipase. This particular mutation, called a splice-site mutation, substitutes the DNA building block (nucleotide) guanine for the nucleotide adenine near an area of the gene called exon 8 (written as IVS8-1G>A). This mutation results in the deletion of 24 protein building blocks (amino acids). People with the IVS8-1G>A mutation in both copies of the LIPA gene in each cell have 5 percent of the normal amount of lysosomal acid lipase activity.

Reduction or absence of lysosomal acid lipase activity results in the accumulation of triglycerides, cholesteryl esters, and other lipids within lysosomes, causing fat buildup in multiple tissues. The body's inability to produce cholesterol from the breakdown of these lipids leads to an increase in alternative methods of cholesterol production and higher-than-normal levels of cholesterol in the blood. The excess lipids are transported to the liver for removal. Because many of them are not broken down properly, they cannot be removed from the body; instead; they accumulate in the liver, resulting in liver disease. The progressive accumulation of lipids in tissues results in organ dysfunction and the signs and symptoms of lysosomal acid lipase deficiency.

More About This Health Condition

Other Names for This Gene

  • cholesterol ester hydrolase
  • LAL
  • lipase A
  • lipase A, lysosomal acid
  • lipase A, lysosomal acid, cholesterol esterase
  • lysosomal acid lipase
  • sterol esterase

Additional Information & Resources

Tests Listed in the Genetic Testing Registry

Scientific Articles on PubMed

Catalog of Genes and Diseases from OMIM

Gene and Variant Databases


  • Reiner Z, Guardamagna O, Nair D, Soran H, Hovingh K, Bertolini S, Jones S, Coric M, Calandra S, Hamilton J, Eagleton T, Ros E. Lysosomal acid lipase deficiency--an under-recognized cause of dyslipidaemia and liver dysfunction. Atherosclerosis. 2014 Jul;235(1):21-30. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2014.04.003. Epub 2014 Apr 15. Citation on PubMed
  • Saito S, Ohno K, Suzuki T, Sakuraba H. Structural bases of Wolman disease and cholesteryl ester storage disease. Mol Genet Metab. 2012 Feb;105(2):244-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ymgme.2011.11.004. Epub 2011 Nov 20. Citation on PubMed
  • Scott SA, Liu B, Nazarenko I, Martis S, Kozlitina J, Yang Y, Ramirez C, Kasai Y, Hyatt T, Peter I, Desnick RJ. Frequency of the cholesteryl ester storage disease common LIPA E8SJM mutation (c.894G>A) in various racial and ethnic groups. Hepatology. 2013 Sep;58(3):958-65. doi: 10.1002/hep.26327. Epub 2013 Jul 29. Citation on PubMed or Free article on PubMed Central
  • Zhang B, Porto AF. Cholesteryl ester storage disease: protean presentations of lysosomal acid lipase deficiency. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2013 Jun;56(6):682-5. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e31828b36ac. Citation on PubMed

The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.