, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Very long chain fatty acids in higher animals—A review

  • Alf Poulos


Fatty acids with greater than 22 carbon atoms (very long chain fatty acids, VLCFA) are present in small amounts in most animal tissues. Saturated and monoenoic VLCFA are major components of brain, while the polyenoic VLCFA occur in significant amounts in certain specialized animal tissues such at retina and spermatozoa. Biosynthesis of VLCFA occurs by carbon chain elongation of shorter chain fatty acid precursors while β-oxidation takes place, almost exclusively in peroxisomes. Mitochondria are unable to oxidize VLCFA because they lack a specific VLCFA coenzyme A synthetase, the first enzyme in the β-oxidation pathway. VLCFA accumulate in the tissues of patients with inherited abnormalities in peroxisomal assembly, and also in individuals with defects in enzymes catalyzing individual reactions along the β-oxidation pathway. It is believed that the accumulation of VLCFA in patient tissues contributes to the severe pathological changes which are a feature of these conditions. However, little is known of the role of VLCFA in normal cellular processes, and of the molecular basis for their contribution to the disease process. The present review provides an outline of the current knowledge of VLCFA including their biosynthesis, degradation, possible function and involvement in human disease.



ATP-binding cassette




adenosine triphosphate


coenzyme A


fatty acid binding protein


tricarboxylic acid


tumor necrosis factor α


very long chain fatty acids


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Copyright information

© American Oil Chemists’ Society 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alf Poulos
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemical PathologyWomen's and Children's HospitalNorth AdelaideAustralia

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