, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 163-170

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

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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.

Received: January 22, 1998 / Accepted: February 16, 1998