Extremophiles

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 163-170

First online:

The essence of being extremophilic: the role of the unique archaeal membrane lipids

  • Jack L. C. M. van de VossenbergAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, 9751 NN Haren, The Netherlands Tel. +31-50-3632150; Fax +31-50-3632154 e-mail: W.N.Konings@biol.rug.nl
  • , Arnold J. M. DriessenAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, 9751 NN Haren, The Netherlands Tel. +31-50-3632150; Fax +31-50-3632154 e-mail: W.N.Konings@biol.rug.nl
  • , W. N. KoningsAffiliated withDepartment of Microbiology, Groningen Biomolecular Sciences and Biotechnology Institute, University of Groningen, Kerklaan 30, 9751 NN Haren, The Netherlands Tel. +31-50-3632150; Fax +31-50-3632154 e-mail: W.N.Konings@biol.rug.nl

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Abstract

In extreme environments, mainly Archaea are encountered. The archaeal cytoplasmic membrane contains unique ether lipids that cannot easily be degraded, are temperature- and mechanically resistant, and highly salt tolerant. Moreover, thermophilic and extreme acidophilic Archaea possess membrane-spanning tetraether lipids that form a rigid monolayer membrane which is nearly impermeable to ions and protons. These properties make the archaeal lipid membranes more suitable for life and survival in extreme environments than the ester-type bilayer lipids of Bacteria or Eukarya.

Key words Cytoplasmic membrane Permeability Solute transport Bioenergetics