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Adv Space Res. 2001;28(4):719-24.

The evolution of lipids.

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Department of Bioengineering, Faculty of Engineering, Soka University, 1-236 Tangi-cho, Hachioji, Tokyo 192-8577, JAPAN.


Living organisms on the Earth which are divided into three major domains--Archaea, Bacteria, and Eucarya, probably came from a common ancestral cell. Because there are many thermophilic microorganisms near the root of the universal phylogenetic tree, the common ancestral cell should be considered to be a thermophilic microorganism. The existence of a cell is necessary for the living organisms; the cell membrane is the essential structural component of a cell, so its amphiphilic property is vital for the molecule of lipids for cell membranes. Tetraether type glycerophospholipids with C40 isoprenoid chains are major membrane lipids widely distributed in archaeal cells. Cyclization number of C40 isoprenoid chains in thermophilic archaea influences the fluidity of lipids whereas the number of carbons and degree of unsaturation in fatty acids do so in bacteria and eucarya. In addition to the cyclization of the tetraether lipids, covalent bonding of two C40 isoprenoid chains was found in hyperthermophiles. These characteristic structures of the lipids seem to contribute to their fundamental physiological roles in hyperthermophiles. Stereochemical differences between G-1-P archaeal lipids and G-3-P bacterial and eucaryal lipids might have occurred by the function of some proteins long after the first cell was developed by the reactions of small organic molecules. We propose that the structure of lipids of the common ancestral cell may have been similar to those of hyperthermophilic archaea.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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