, Volume 39, Issue 11, pp 1045–1053

Structure and function of animal fatty acid synthase


DOI: 10.1007/s11745-004-1329-9

Cite this article as:
Chirala, S.S. & Wakil, S.J. Lipids (2004) 39: 1045. doi:10.1007/s11745-004-1329-9


Fatty acid synthase (FAS; EC of animal tissues is a complex multifunctional enzyme consisting of two identical monomers. The FAS monomer (∼270 kDa) contains six catalytic activities and from the N-terminus the order is β-ketoacyl synthase (KS), acetyl/malonyl transacylase (AT/MT), β-hydroxyacyl dehydratase (DH), enoyl reductase (ER), β-ketoacyl reductase (KR), acyl carrier protein (ACP), and thioesterase (TE). Although the FAS monomer contains all the activities needed for palmitate synthesis, only the dimer form of the synthase is functional. Both the biochemical analyses and the small-angle neutron-scattering analysis determined that in the dimer form of the enzyme the monomers are arranged in a head-to-tail manner generating two centers for palmitate synthesis. Further, these analyses also suggested that the component activities of the monomer are organized in three domains. Domain I contains KS, AT/MT, and DH, domain II contains ER, KR, and ACP, and domain III contains TE. Approximately one fourth of the monomer protein located between domains I and II contains no catalytic activities and is called the interdomain/core region. This region plays an important role in the dimer formation. Electron cryomicrographic analyses of FAS revealed a quaternary structure at approximately 19 Å resolution, containing two monomers (180×130×75 Å) that are separated by about 19 Å, and arranged in an antiparallel fashion, which is consistent with biochemical and neutron-scattering data. The monomers are connected at the middle by a hinge generating two clefts that may be the two active centers of fatty acid synthesis. Normal mode analysis predicted that the intersubunit hinge region and the intrasubunit hinge located between domains II and III are highly flexible. Analysis of FAS particle images by using a simultaneous multiple model single particle refinement method confirmed that FAS structure exists in various conformational states. Attempts to get higher resolution of the structure are under way.



acyl carrier protein


acetyl/malonyl transacylase




domains I to III


enoyl reductase


fatty acid synthase


ketoacyl reductase


ketoacyl synthase



Copyright information

© AOCS Press 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Verna and Marrs McLean Department of Biochemistry and Molecular BiologyBaylor College of MedicineHouston