The Self Control of Lipid Bilayers

  • Donald L. Melchior
  • Joseph M. Steim


A characteristic of nearly all organisms is their ability to accomodate the fatty acid composition of their lipids to growth temperature (7,8,10,23). The principal biochemical adjustment is an increase in the fraction of low-melting-point fatty acids (usually unsaturates) in lipids synthesized at lower growth temperatures. The obvious physical result of this adjustment is a depression of lipid melting points. Physiologically, the alteration of fatty acid composition tends to maintain constant bilayer fluidity at various growth temperatures (27). Maintainence of membrane fluidity becomes especially important in organisms such as Ackoleplasma laidlawii (15,29) and Escherichia coli (16,21,30), whose membranes can undergo a transition at or just below growth temperature. In such cases, the shift in the fatty acid spectrum at lower growth temperatures is absolutely essential to maintain a functional fluid state. As membranes pass through a transition from high to low temperature they become progressively more crystalline. The increased order can give rise to aberrant behavior, including changes in enzyme kinetics, cell leakage, cessation of cell division, and even cell lysis (16,19,21).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald L. Melchior
    • 1
  • Joseph M. Steim
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA

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