Ornithine Lipids and Their Structural Modifications: From A to E and Beyond

FEMS Microbiol Lett. 2012 Oct;335(1):1-10. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6968.2012.02623.x. Epub 2012 Jul 9.


Ornithine lipids (OLs) are phosphorus-free membrane lipids that are widespread in eubacteria, but absent from archaea and eukaryotes. They contain a 3-hydroxy fatty acyl group attached in amide linkage to the α-amino group of the amino acid ornithine. A second fatty acyl group is ester-linked to the 3-hydroxy position of the first fatty acid. About 25% of the bacterial species whose genomes have been sequenced are predicted to have the capacity to form OLs. Distinct OL hydroxylations have been described in the ester-linked fatty acid, the amide-linked fatty acid, and the ornithine moiety. These modifications often seem to form part of a bacterial stress response to changing environmental conditions, allowing the bacteria to adjust membrane properties by simply modifying already existing membrane lipids without the need to synthesize new lipids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / chemistry
  • Bacteria / enzymology
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Lipids / biosynthesis*
  • Lipids / chemistry*
  • Ornithine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Ornithine / biosynthesis
  • Ornithine / chemistry


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Lipids
  • ornithine containing aminolipid
  • Ornithine