Structure and function of glycoglycerolipids in plants and bacteria

Prog Lipid Res. 2007 Sep;46(5):225-43. doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2007.05.001. Epub 2007 May 21.


Phosphoglycerolipids are abundant membrane constituents in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. However, glycoglycerolipids are the predominant lipids in chloroplasts of plants and eukaryotic algae and in cyanobacteria. Membrane composition in chloroplasts and cyanobacteria is highly conserved, with monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGD) and digalactosyldiacylglycerol (DGD) representing the most abundant lipids. The genes encoding enzymes of galactolipid biosynthesis have been isolated from Arabidopsis. Galactolipids are crucial for growth under normal and phosphate limiting conditions. Furthermore, they are indispensable for maximal efficiency of photosynthesis. A wide variety of glycoglycerolipids is found in different bacteria. These lipids contain glucose or galactose, in some cases also mannose or other sugars with different glycosidic linkages in their head group. Some bacterial species produce unusual glycoglycerolipids, such as glycophospholipids or glycoglycerolipids carrying sugar head groups esterified with acyl residues. A number of genes coding for bacterial glycoglycerolipid synthases have been cloned and the enzymes characterized. In contrast to the breadth of information available on their structural diversity, much less is known about functional aspects of bacterial glycoglycerolipids. In some bacteria, glycoglycerolipids are required for membrane bilayer stability, they serve as precursors for the formation of complex membrane components, or they are crucial to support anoxygenic photosynthesis or growth during phosphate deficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Chloroplasts / chemistry
  • Chloroplasts / metabolism
  • Cyanobacteria / chemistry*
  • Cyanobacteria / metabolism
  • Eukaryota / chemistry
  • Eukaryota / metabolism
  • Eukaryotic Cells / chemistry
  • Eukaryotic Cells / metabolism
  • Glycolipids / chemistry*
  • Glycolipids / metabolism
  • Photosynthesis / physiology
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Structure-Activity Relationship


  • Glycolipids
  • glycerolglycolipids