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.

Fatty acids

Eicosanoids and related lipids

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