Ornithine lipids and their structural modifications: from A to E and beyond

Authors

  • Miguel Á. Vences-Guzmán,

    1. Centro de Ciencias Genómicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
    2. Programa de Doctorado en Ciencias Biomédicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
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  • Otto Geiger,

    1. Centro de Ciencias Genómicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
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  • Christian Sohlenkamp

    Corresponding author
    • Centro de Ciencias Genómicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico
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Correspondence: Christian Sohlenkamp, Centro de Ciencias Genómicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Av. Universidad s/n, Apdo. Postal 565-A, Cuernavaca, Morelos CP62210, Mexico. Tel.: +52 777 3291703; fax +52 777 3175581; e-mail: chsohlen@ccg.unam.mx

Abstract

Ornithine lipids (OLs) are phosphorus-free membrane lipids that are widespread in eubacteria, but absent from archaea and eukaryotes. They contain a 3-hydroxy fatty acyl group attached in amide linkage to the α-amino group of the amino acid ornithine. A second fatty acyl group is ester-linked to the 3-hydroxy position of the first fatty acid. About 25% of the bacterial species whose genomes have been sequenced are predicted to have the capacity to form OLs. Distinct OL hydroxylations have been described in the ester-linked fatty acid, the amide-linked fatty acid, and the ornithine moiety. These modifications often seem to form part of a bacterial stress response to changing environmental conditions, allowing the bacteria to adjust membrane properties by simply modifying already existing membrane lipids without the need to synthesize new lipids.

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