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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2007 Apr;5(4):287-97.

A fatty-acid synthesis mechanism specialized for parasitism.

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  • 1Department of Biological Chemistry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, 725 North Wolfe Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


Most cells use either a type I or type II synthase to make fatty acids. Trypanosoma brucei, the sleeping sickness parasite, provides the first example of a third mechanism for this process. Trypanosomes use microsomal elongases to synthesize fatty acids de novo, whereas other cells use elongases to make long-chain fatty acids even longer. The modular nature of the pathway allows synthesis of different fatty-acid end products, which have important roles in trypanosome biology. Indeed, this newly discovered mechanism seems ideally suited for the parasitic lifestyle.

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