The naturally occurring 1-O-alkyl-sn-glycerols and their methoxylated congeners, 1-O-(2'-methoxyalkyl)-sn-glycerols, are biologically active compounds, ubiquitously found in nature as diacyl glyceryl ether lipids and phosphoether lipids. The chief objective of this article is to provide a comprehensive and up to date review on such ether lipids. The occurrence and distribution of these compounds in nature are extensively reviewed, their chemical structure and molecular variety, their biosynthesis and chemical synthesis and, finally, their various biological effects are described and discussed. An unprecedented biosynthesis of the 2'-methoxylated alkylglycerols is proposed. The first synthesis of enantiopure (Z)-(2'R)-1-O-(2'-methoxyhexadec-4'-enyl)-sn-glycerol, the most prevalent 2'-methoxylated type alkylglycerol present in cartilaginous fish, is described. It was accomplished by a highly convergent five step process.
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