NCBI Bookshelf. A service of the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.

Berg JM, Tymoczko JL, Stryer L. Biochemistry. 5th edition. New York: W H Freeman; 2002.

  • By agreement with the publisher, this book is accessible by the search feature, but cannot be browsed.
Cover of Biochemistry

Biochemistry. 5th edition.

Show details

Chapter 22Fatty Acid Metabolism

Fats provide an efficient means for storing energy for later use.


Fats provide an efficient means for storing energy for later use. (Right) The processes of fatty acid synthesis (preparation for energy storage) and fatty acid degradation (preparation for energy use) are, in many ways, the reverse of each other. (Above) (more...)

We turn now from the metabolism of carbohydrates to that of fatty acids. A fatty acid contains a long hydrocarbon chain and a terminal carboxylate group. Fatty acids have four major physiological roles. First, fatty acids are building blocks of phospholipids and glycolipids. These amphipathic molecules are important components of biological membranes, as we discussed in Chapter 12. Second, many proteins are modified by the covalent attachment of fatty acids, which targets them to membrane locations (Section 12.5.3). Third, fatty acids are fuel molecules. They are stored as triacylglycerols (also called neutral fats or triglycerides), which are uncharged esters of fatty acids with glycerol (Figure 22.1). Fatty acids mobilized from triacylglycerols are oxidized to meet the energy needs of a cell or organism. Fourth, fatty acid derivatives serve as hormones and intracellular messengers. In this chapter, we will focus on the oxidation and synthesis of fatty acids, processes that are reciprocally regulated in response to hormones.

Figure 22.1. Electron Micrograph of an Adipocyte.

Figure 22.1

Electron Micrograph of an Adipocyte. A small band of cytoplasm surrounds the large deposit of triacylglycerols. [Biophoto Associates/ Photo Researchers.]

22.0.1. An Overview of Fatty Acid Metabolism:

Fatty acid degradation and synthesis are relatively simple processes that are essentially the reverse of each other. The process of degradation converts an aliphatic compound into a set of activated acetyl units (acetyl CoA) that can be processed by the citric acid cycle (Figure 22.2). An activated fatty acid is oxidized to introduce a double bond; the double bond is hydrated to introduce an oxygen; the alcohol is oxidized to a ketone; and, finally, the four carbon fragment is cleaved by coenzyme A to yield acetyl CoA and a fatty acid chain two carbons shorter. If the fatty acid has an even number of carbon atoms and is saturated, the process is simply repeated until the fatty acid is completely converted into acetyl CoA units.

Image ch22fu2.jpg

Figure 22.2. Steps in Fatty Acid Degradation and Synthesis.

Figure 22.2

Steps in Fatty Acid Degradation and Synthesis. The two processes are in many ways mirror images of each other.

Fatty acid synthesis is essentially the reverse of this process. Because the result is a polymer, the process starts with monomers—in this case with activated acyl group (most simply, an acetyl unit) and malonyl units (see Figure 22.2). The malonyl unit is condensed with the acetyl unit to form a four-carbon fragment. To produce the required hydrocarbon chain, the carbonyl must be reduced. The fragment is reduced, dehydrated, and reduced again, exactly the opposite of degradation, to bring the carbonyl group to the level of a methylene group with the formation of butyryl CoA. Another activated malonyl group condenses with the butyryl unit and the process is repeated until a C16 fatty acid is synthesized.

  • 22.1. Triacylglycerols Are Highly Concentrated Energy Stores
  • 22.2. The Utilization of Fatty Acids as Fuel Requires Three Stages of Processing
  • 22.3. Certain Fatty Acids Require Additional Steps for Degradation
  • 22.4. Fatty Acids Are Synthesized and Degraded by Different Pathways
  • 22.5. Acetyl Coenzyme A Carboxylase Plays a Key Role in Controlling Fatty Acid Metabolism
  • 22.6. Elongation and Unsaturation of Fatty Acids Are Accomplished by Accessory Enzyme Systems
  • Summary
  • Problems
  • Selected Readings

By agreement with the publisher, this book is accessible by the search feature, but cannot be browsed.

Copyright © 2002, W. H. Freeman and Company.
Bookshelf ID: NBK21173


Recent Activity

Your browsing activity is empty.

Activity recording is turned off.

Turn recording back on

See more...