Microbial Lipid Biochemistry

Microorganisms encompass bacteria, yeasts, fungi and the microalgae. Their importance as sources of lipids and of enzymes that function with lipids in various forms has been steadily increasing over the past five or six decades. The first uses of them were probably for the production of laundry-grade lipases to be used in conjunction with detergents and other cleaning agents in the 1960s. The 1980s saw the first arrival of a microbial oil to be used as a food supplement (as a source of gamma-linolenic acid) and since then major developments have occurred apace. Microorganisms are now regarded as the sources of choice of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids being used as high-grade nutraceuticals for human (including infant) and animal consumption. An understanding of the biochemistry behind microbial lipids and lipid-associated enzymes is an obvious and necessary underpinning of the processes that are involved in their production. It is only by understanding the underlying biochemistry can we hope to improve the means of production whether this be by molecular genetics or by process development.

The contributions in this section give the essential information for an understanding of the importance of these entities and also provide information relating to the processes involved in their large-scale production. As with all sections of the Lipid Library, this is an on-going and possibly open-ended compilation of key contributions in the various fields that go to make up this fascinating group of lipids and their associated enzymes.

Contributions in preparation:

Biosynthesis of lipids in oleaginous microorganisms (Colin Ratledge)

Commercial production of polyunsaturated fatty acids –arachidonic acid and docosahexanoic acid (Casey Lippmeier)

Bacteria as sources of (commercial) lipids (Alexander Steinbuchel)