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.
© 2012 Federation of European Microbiological Societies. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.