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A phospholipase is an enzyme that converts phospholipids into fatty acids and other lipophilic substances. There are four major classes, termed A, B, C and D distinguished by what type of reaction they catalyze:
- Phospholipase A
- Phospholipase B - cleaves both SN-1 and SN-2 acyl chains, also known as a lysophospholipase.
- Phospholipase C - cleaves before the phosphate, releasing diacylglycerol and a phosphate-containing head group. Phospholipase Cs play a central role in signal transduction, releasing the second messenger Inositol triphosphate.
- Phospholipase D - cleaves after the phosphate, releasing phosphatidic acid and an alcohol.
Types C and D are considered phosphodiesterases.