Fatty acids are aliphatic monocarboxylic acids, and those considered lipids have 10 or more carbons. Generally, fatty acids occur in nature as a homologous series ranging in chain length from C10 to C36. However, fatty acids commonly range from C14 to C20 in most organisms with the even-numbered homologues being predominant. Fatty acids with 16 and 18 carbon atoms are most common and quantitatively important. Fatty acids may be saturated (CnH2n+1COOH) or unsaturated [mono-(CnH2n-1COOH) and poly-(CnH2n-xCOOH)], they may have odd-numbered carbon chains, or they may be substituted with methyl, oxygen (keto, epoxy), or hydroxyl functions. Cyclic (cyclopropyl- and cyclopentyl-) fatty acids also occur in some organisms. The principal product of the fatty acid synthetase in plants, animals, and microorganisms contains 16 carbons (see Chapter 4). Most other fatty acids are formed by elongation, desaturation, and substitution, or combinations of these modifications. Palmitic acid (C16) is the predominant saturated fatty acid of most organisms, and oleic (C18:1), linoleic (C18:2) and linolenic (C18:3) are the major unsaturated acids.


Fatty Acid Composition Total Fatty Acid Rust Fungus Ricinoleic Acid Hydroxy Fatty Acid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • John D. Weete
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Botany, Plant Pathology, and MicrobiologyAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA

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