Fatty Acid Biosynthesis


Fatty acids are produced by most organisms on this planet, mainly for use in membranes or as a long‐term store of energy. While the overall organization and arrangement of the enzyme complexes varies, the underlying chemistry used to assemble fatty acids is virtually identical in every organism; the crucial step being decarboxylative addition of malonate thioesters to elongate the growing acyl chain by two carbons, followed by reduction, dehydration and reduction of the resulting 3‐oxo functionality to 3‐CH2, prior to further chain elongation.

Keywords: fatty acid; desaturase; acyl carrier protein; malonyl‐CoA; acetyl‐CoA carboxylase

Figure 1.

Incorporation of acetyl‐CoA into both the ‘starter unit’ and ‘extender units’ and incorporation of malonyl‐CoA into extender units only.

Figure 2.

Fatty acid synthase complex showing all necessary enzymatic activities, cofactors and ‘swinging arm’ thiol.



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Further Reading

Abeles RH, Frey PA and Jencks WP (1992) Biochemistry. Boston, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Dewick PM (1997) Medicinal Natural Products. Chichester: Wiley.

O'Hagan D (1991) The Polyketide Metabolites. Chichester: Ellis Horwood.

Mann J (1987) Secondary Metabolism, 2nd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Stryer L (1988) Biochemistry, 3rd edn. New York: WH Freeman.

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Rawlings, Bernard James(Jul 2001) Fatty Acid Biosynthesis. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001390]