Lipids from heterotrophic microbes: advances in metabolism research

Trends Biotechnol. 2011 Feb;29(2):53-61. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2010.11.002. Epub 2010 Dec 9.


Heterotrophic oleaginous microorganisms are capable of producing over 20% of their weight in single cell oils (SCOs) composed of triacylglycerols (TAGs). These TAGs contain fatty acids, such as palmitic, stearic and oleic acids, that are well-suited for biodiesel applications. Although some of these microbes are able to accumulate SCOs while growing on inexpensive agro-industrial biomass, the competition with plant oil resources means that a significant increase in productivity is desired. The present review aims to summarize recent details in lipid metabolism research and engineering (e.g. direct fatty acid ethyl ester production), as well as culture condition optimization and innovations, such as solid-state or semi-solid-state fermentation, that can all contribute to higher productivity and further advancement of the field.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Biofuels
  • Fermentation
  • Heterotrophic Processes
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Oleic Acids / biosynthesis
  • Oleic Acids / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / biosynthesis*
  • Triglycerides / genetics
  • Yeasts / genetics
  • Yeasts / metabolism*


  • Biofuels
  • Oleic Acids
  • Triglycerides