Skip to main content
Log in

Triacylglycerols in prokaryotic microorganisms

  • Mini-Review
  • Published:
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Triacylglycerols (TAG) are fatty acid triesters of glycerol; there are diverse types of TAG with different properties depending on their fatty acid composition. The occurrence of TAG as reserve compounds is widespread among eukaryotic organisms such as yeast, fungi, plants and animals, whereas occurrence of TAG in bacteria has only rarely been described. However, accumulation of TAG seems to be widespread among bacteria belonging to the actinomycetes group, such as species of Mycobacterium, Streptomyces, Rhodococcus and Nocardia. Fatty acids in acylglycerols in cells of Rhodococcus opacus PD630 accounted for up to 87% of the cellular dry weight. TAG biosynthesis, justifying an oleaginous status, seems to be restricted mainly to this group of bacteria, but occurs to a minor extent also in a few other bacteria. The compositions and structures of bacterial TAG vary considerably depending on the microorganism and on the carbon source, and unusual acyl moieties, such as phenyldecanoic acid and 4,8,12 trimethyl tridecanoic acid, are also included. The principal function of bacterial TAG seems to be as a reserve compound. Other functions that have been discussed include regulation of cellular membrane fluidity by keeping unusual fatty acids away from membrane phospholipids, or acting as a sink for reducing equivalents. In recent years, basic aspects of the physiology and biochemistry of bacterial TAG accumulation, and the molecular biology of the lipid inclusion bodies have been reported. TAG are used for nutritional, therapeutic and pharmaceutical purposes and serve as a source of oleochemicals.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

Electronic Publication

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Alvarez, .H., Steinbüchel, .A. Triacylglycerols in prokaryotic microorganisms. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 60, 367–376 (2002).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: