The esterase/acyltransferase from Mycobacterium smegmatis, MsAcT, display high acyltransfer capacity in water media with demonstrations found for both ester and amide syntheses. However, it has recently been discovered that esterases in contrast to amidases lack a key hydrogen bond in the transition state, donated by the scissile NH-group of the substrate. Esterases with improved amidase performance have been achieved with the introduction of amino-acid side chains or water network as hydrogen bond acceptors. Using the esterase from Mycobacterium smegmatis, MsAcT, the influence of this hydrogen bond was studied in both amide hydrolysis and synthesis, using a rational engineering approach. Two positions were selected for mutagenesis and enzyme variants with improved performance in amide synthesis and hydrolysis were generated. Compared to the wild-type, variant F154A had the highest absolute increase in amidase specificity (11-fold) and I194Q had the greatest change in relative amidase versus esterase reaction specificity (160-fold). The relative reaction specificities for amide over ester synthesis followed a similar trend as that of hydrolysis and the best variant was I194Q with a 32-fold increase compared to wt. Based on MD-simulations water seems to play an important role in the transition state as a hydrogen bond bridge between the NH-group of the amide substrate and the enzyme.