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Nat Rev Microbiol. 2014 Jun;12(6):438-48. doi: 10.1038/nrmicro3260. Epub 2014 May 7.

A re-evaluation of the archaeal membrane lipid biosynthetic pathway.

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Department of Marine Organic Biogeochemistry, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), PO Box 59, NL-1790 AB Den Burg, The Netherlands.


Archaea produce unique membrane lipids in which isoprenoid alkyl chains are bound to glycerol moieties via ether linkages. As cultured representatives of the Archaea have become increasingly available throughout the past decade, archaeal genomic and membrane lipid-composition data have also become available. In this Analysis article, we compare the amino acid sequences of the key enzymes of the archaeal ether-lipid biosynthesis pathway and critically evaluate past studies on the biochemical functions of these enzymes. We propose an alternative archaeal lipid biosynthetic pathway that is based on a 'multiple-key, multiple-lock' mechanism.

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