Adaptive modifications in membranes of halotolerant and halophilic microorganisms

J Bioenerg Biomembr. 1989 Feb;21(1):93-113. doi: 10.1007/BF00762214.


Halotolerant and halophilic microorganisms can grow in (hyper)saline environments, but only halophiles specifically require salt. Genotypic and phenotypic adaptations are displayed by halophiles; the halotolerants adapt phenotypically, but it is not established whether they show genotypic adaptation. This paper reviews the various strategies of haloadaptation of membrane proteins and lipids by halotolerant and halophilic microorganisms. Moderate halophiles and halotolerants adapt their membrane lipid composition by increasing the proportion of anionic lipids, often phosphatidylglycerol and/or glycolipids, which in the moderately halophilic bacterium Vibrio costicola appears to be part of an osmoregulatory response to minimize membrane stress at high salinities. Extreme halophiles possess typical archaebacterial ether lipids, which are genotypically adapted by having additional substitutions with negatively-charged residues such as sulfate. In contrast to the lipids, it is less clear whether membrane proteins are haloadapted, although they may be more acidic; very few depend on salt for their activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism*
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Sodium Chloride / metabolism*


  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Sodium Chloride