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Biochimie. 2007 Feb;89(2):230-42. Epub 2006 Aug 7.

Key enzymes for biosynthesis of neutral lipid storage compounds in prokaryotes: properties, function and occurrence of wax ester synthases/acyl-CoA: diacylglycerol acyltransferases.

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Institut für Molekulare Mikrobiologie und Biotechnologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, Corrensstrasse 3, 48149 Münster, Germany.


Triacylglycerols (TAGs) and wax esters (WEs) are beside polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs) important storage lipids in some groups of prokaryotes. Accumulation of these lipids occurs in cells when they are cultivated under conditions of unbalanced growth in the presence of high concentrations of a suitable carbon source, which can be used for fatty acid and storage lipid biosyntheses. The key enzymes, which mediate both WE and TAG formations from long-chain acyl-coenzyme A (CoA) as acyl donor and long-chain fatty alcohols or diacylglycerols as respective acyl acceptors in bacteria, are WE synthases/acyl-CoA:diacylglycerol acyltransferases (WS/DGATs). The WS/DGATs identified so far represent rather unspecific enzymes with broad spectra of possible substrates; this makes them interesting for many biotechnological applications. This review traces the molecular structure and biochemical properties including the probable regions responsible for acyltransferase properties, enzymatic activity and substrate specifities. The phylogenetic relationships based on amino acid sequence similarities of this unique class of enzymes were revealed. Furthermore, recent advances in understanding the physiological functions of WS/DGATs in their natural hosts including pathogenic Mycobacterium tuberculosis were discussed.

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