Formation of Bacterial Glycerol-Based Membrane Lipids: Pathways, Enzymes, and Reactions

  • Otto GeigerEmail author
  • Christian Sohlenkamp
  • Isabel M. López-Lara
Reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


The model bacterium Escherichia coli contains the phospholipids phosphatidylglycerol, cardiolipin, and phosphatidylethanolamine as major membrane lipids, and biosyntheses and functionalities of individual membrane lipids have mainly been studied in this organism. However, in other bacteria, additional and alternative glycerol-based membrane lipids are found, and in many cases neither their biosyntheses nor their functionalities are understood. Some Gram-negative bacteria have phosphatidylcholine in their standard repertoire, whereas many Gram-positive bacteria have glycosylated diacylglycerols and lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol in their membranes. Notably, phosphatidylinositol seems to be an essential lipid for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Actinomycetes, and it might be formed in some proteobacteria. Under certain stress conditions, specific membrane lipids can be formed in order to minimize the stress exerted. For example, under phosphorus-limiting conditions of growth, some bacteria form glycerol-based membrane lipids lacking phosphorus such as glycolipids, sulfolipids, or betaine lipids. Challenge of proteobacteria with acid causes modifications of membrane lipids, such as formation of lysyl-phosphatidylglycerol. Modifications of the acyl residues of pre-existing glycerol-based membrane lipids include desaturation, cyclopropanation, cis-trans isomerization reactions, as well as bacterial plasmalogen biosynthesis.



Research in our lab was supported by grants from Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología-México (CONACyT-Mexico) (178359 and 253549 in Investigación Científica Básica as well as 118 in Investigación en Fronteras de la Ciencia) and from Dirección General de Asuntos del Personal Académico-Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (DGAPA-UNAM; PAPIIT IN202616, IN203612). We thank Angeles Moreno and Lourdes Martínez-Aguilar for their skillful technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Otto Geiger
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christian Sohlenkamp
    • 1
  • Isabel M. López-Lara
    • 2
  1. 1.Centro de Ciencias GenómicasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoCuernavacaMéxico
  2. 2.Centro de Ciencias GenómicasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)CuernavacaMéxico

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