Fatty Acids and Eicosanoids
These pages describe the structures, occurrence, biochemistry and functions of fatty acids and eicosanoids. Fatty acids are the basic building blocks of most of the compounds that we term 'lipids'. Indeed, some consider them the defining lipid constituents. While much of the interest is concerned with fatty acids as components of lipids, there is increasing evidence that certain fatty acids have specific functions in their own right, for example by interacting with receptors on cell nuclei.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids from the essential omega-6 and omega-3 families are the biosynthetic precursors of the prostaglandins and other eicosanoids, including the leukotrienes, thromboxanes, lipoxins and so forth. Isoprostanes are derived similarly but through non-enzymic reactions. In addition, docosanoids such as the resolvins and protectins are derived from docosahexaenoic acid, while plant hormones like the jasmonates are derived from α-linolenic acid. These fascinating compounds have profound biological properties at minute concentrations.
- Saturated straight-chain - from acetate to 30:0 and beyond
- Monoenoic straight-chain - natural cis and trans monoenes
- Methylene-interrupted polyenoic - the omega-6 & omega-3 families, essential fatty acids,
- Conjugated & multimethylene-interrupted polyenoic - from both animals (sponges) and plants
- Branched-chain - with one or more methyl groups + mycolic acids
- Cyclic - 3- to 7-membered ring in the chain or at the end
- Hydroxy, epoxy, furanoid, keto - from both animals (not eicosanoids) and plants
Eicosanoids and related lipids
- Introduction - structures and key enzymes - including the cyclooxygenases and lipoxygenases
- Prostaglandins, prostacyclins and thromboxanes
- Isoprostanes - derived non-enzymatically
- Hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acids and related compounds - non-cyclic eicosanoids
- Leukotrienes and lipoxins + hepoxilins
- Resolvins and protectins - the docosanoids
- Plant oxylipins - octadecanoids and jasmonates
- Nitro fatty acids
These essays are aimed at generalists - not experts in particular disciplines - but it is hoped that the reading lists at the end of each will provide for those who require a more specialized knowledge. PDF files are available for download at the end of web-pages. Related lipids are grouped together in the documents listed, but there are shortcuts to a full list of individual lipid classes here.
Updated: April 1st, 2011