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J Bioenerg Biomembr. 1992 Dec;24(6):555-66.

Structures of archaebacterial membrane lipids.

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  • 1Institute of Biological Sciences, National Research Council, Ottawa, Canada.


Structural data on archaebacterial lipids is presented with emphasis on the ether lipids of the methanogens. These ether lipids normally account for 80-95% of the membrane lipids with the remaining 5-20% of neutral squalenes and other isoprenoids. Genus-specific combinations of various lipid core structures found in methanogens include diether-tetraether, dietherhydroxydiether, or diether-macrocyclic diether-tetraether lipid moieties. Some species have only the standard diether core lipid, but none are known with predominantly tetraether lipids as found in certain sulfur-dependent archaebacteria. The relative proportions of these lipid cores are known to vary in relation to growth conditions in Methanococcus jannaschii and Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum. Polar headgroups in glycosidic or phosphodiester linkage to the sn-1 or sn-1' carbons of glycerol consist of polyols, carbohydrates, and amino compounds. The available structural data indicate a close similarity among the polar lipids synthesized within the species of the same genus. Detection of lipid molecular ions by mass spectrometry of total polar lipid extracts is a promising technique to provide valuable comparative data. Since these lipid structures are stable within the extreme environments that many archaebacteria inhabit, there may be specific applications for their use in biotechnology.

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