In this study porcine pancreatic lipase (PPL) was covalently immobilized on cross-linked polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) in organic media in the presence of fatty acid additives in order to improve its immobilized activity. The effects of fatty acid additions to the immobilization media were investigated choosing tributyrin hydrolysis in water and ester synthesis by immobilized PPL in n-hexane. Various fatty acids which are also the substrates of lipases in esterification reactions were used as active site protecting agents during the immobilization process in an organic solvent. The obtained results showed that covalent immobilization carried out in the presence of fatty acids as protective ligands improved the hydrolytic and esterification activity of immobilized enzyme. A remarkable increase in activity of the immobilized PPL was obtained when octanoic acid was used as an additive and the hydrolytic activity was increased from 5.2 to 19.2 mu mol min(-1) mg(-1) as compared to the non-additive immobilization method. With the increase of hydrolytic activity of immobilized lipase in the presence of octanoic acid, in an analogous manner, the rate of esterification for the synthesis of butyl octanoate was also increased from 7.3 to 26.3 mu mol min(-1) g(-1) immobilized protein using controlled thermodynamic water activities with saturated salt solutions. In addition, the immobilized PPL activity was maintained at levels representing 63% of its original activity value after 5 repeated uses. The proposed method could be adopted for a wide variety of other enzymes which have highly soluble substrates in organic solvent such as other lipases and esterases. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.