The alpha beta-hydrolase fold family of enzymes is rapidly becoming one of the largest group of structurally related enzymes with diverse catalytic functions. Members in this family include acetylcholinesterase, dienelactone hydrolase, lipase, thioesterase, serine carboxypeptidase, proline iminopeptidase, proline oligopeptidase, haloalkane dehalogenase, haloperoxidase, epoxide hydrolase, hydroxynitrile lyase and others. The enzymes all have a Nucleophile-His-Acid catalytic triad evolved to efficiently operate on substrates with different chemical composition or physicochemical properties and in various biological contexts. For example, acetylcholine esterase catalyzes the cleavage of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, at a rate close to the limits of diffusion of substrate to the active site of the enzyme. Dienelactone hydrolase uses substrate-assisted catalysis to degrade aromatic compounds. Lipases act adsorbed at the water lipid interface of their neutral water-insoluble ester substrate s. Most lipases have their active site buried under secondary structure elements, a flap, which must change conformation to allow substrate to access the active site. Thioesterases are involved in a multitude of biochemical processes including bioluminiscence, fatty acid- and polyketide biosynthesis and metabolism. Serine carboxypeptidases recognize the negatively charged carboxylate terminus of their peptide substrates. Haloalkane dehalogenase is a detoxifying enzyme that converts halogenated aliphatics to the corresponding alcohols, while haloperoxidase catalyzes the halogenation of organic compounds. Hydroxynitrile lyase cleaves carbon-carbon bonds in cyanohydrins with concomitant hydrogen cyanide formation as a defense mechanism in plants. This paper gives an overview of catalytic activities reported for this family of enzymes by discussing selected examples. The current state of knowledge of the molecular basis for catalysis and substrate specificity is outlined. Relationships between active site anatomy , topology and conformational rearrangements in the protein molecule is discussed in the context of enzyme mechanism of action.