Iso- and anteiso-fatty acids in bacteria: biosynthesis, function, and taxonomic significance

Microbiol Rev. 1991 Jun;55(2):288-302. doi: 10.1128/mr.55.2.288-302.1991.


Branched-chain fatty acids of the iso and anteiso series occur in many bacteria as the major acyl constituents of membrane lipids. In addition, omega-cyclohexyl and omega-cycloheptyl fatty acids are present in several bacterial species. These two types of fatty acids are synthesized by the repeated condensation of malonyl coenzyme A with one of the branched-chain and cyclic primers by the same enzyme system. The pathway of de novo branched-chain fatty acid synthesis differs only in initial steps of synthesis from that of the common straight-chain fatty acid (palmitic acid) present in most organisms. The cell membranes composed largely of iso-, anteiso-, and omega-alicyclic acids support growth of bacteria, which inhabit normal as well as extreme environments. The occurrence of these types of fatty acids as major cellular fatty acids is an important criterion used to aid identification and classification of bacteria.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / classification
  • Bacteria / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / biosynthesis*
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Stereoisomerism


  • Fatty Acids
  • Membrane Lipids