Functional Roles of Non-membrane Lipids in Bacterial Signaling

  • María J. Soto
  • N. Calatrava-Morales
  • Isabel M. López-Lara
Reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


Bacteria produce some lipids and lipid-related compounds that function as signals for intercellular communication among prokaryotes or even in inter-kingdom communication (i.e., between prokaryotes and eukaryotes). Most of these lipidic signals participate in quorum-sensing regulation, a process that is dependent on cell density and enables a coordinated response within the population. The number and variety of bacterial non-membrane lipids that have been found to function as molecular signals is increasing and includes unsaturated fatty acids, fatty acid esters, acyl-based molecules such as N-acylhomoserine lactones and γ-butyrolactones, alkyl-based compounds such as quinolones and dialkylresorcinols, or alkane-derived signals such as α-hydroxyketones. Most of these signals are amphipathic and can diffuse through membranes and some of them are volatile. They are synthesized from common metabolites including intermediates of lipid metabolism and are recognized by membrane-bound or cytosolic receptors that trigger specific signal transduction responses. These signals regulate important bacterial traits such as motility, production of antimicrobials, expression of virulence factors, and biofilm formation. Some of these bacterial lipids induce immune responses in eukaryotic organisms.



Work on MJS’s lab was funded by Grant BIO2013-42801-P. NCM was supported by an FPU fellowship from the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science. Work on IMLL’s lab was funded by Dirección General de Asuntos del Personal Académico-Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (DGAPA-UNAM; PAPIIT IN202616).


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • María J. Soto
    • 1
  • N. Calatrava-Morales
    • 1
  • Isabel M. López-Lara
    • 2
  1. 1.Estación Experimental del Zaidín, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)GranadaSpain
  2. 2.Centro de Ciencias GenómicasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)CuernavacaMexico

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