Structure and lipid distribution of polyenoic very-long-chain fatty acids in the brain of peroxisome-deficient patients (Zellweger syndrome)

Biochem J. 1987 Nov 15;248(1):61-7. doi: 10.1042/bj2480061.


The polyenoic fatty acids with carbon chain lengths from 26 to 38 (very-long-chain fatty acids, VLCFA) previously detected in abnormal amounts in Zellweger syndrome brain have been shown to be n-6 derivatives and therefore probably derived by chain elongation of shorter-chain n-6 fatty acids such as linoleic acid and arachidonic acid. Polyenoic VLCFA are also present in Zellweger syndrome liver, but this tissue differs significantly from brain in that the saturated and mono-unsaturated derivatives are the major VLCFA. Zellweger syndrome brain polyenoic VLCFA are present in the neutral lipids predominantly in cholesterol esters, with smaller amounts in the non-esterified fatty acid and triacylglycerol fractions. These fatty acids are barely detectable in any of the major phospholipids, but are present in significant amounts in an unidentified minor phospholipid. The polyenoic VLCFA composition of this lipid differs markedly from that observed for all other lipids, as it contains high proportions of pentaenoic and hexaenoic fatty acids with 34, 36 and 38 carbon atoms. A polar lipid with the chromatographic properties in normal brain contains similar fatty acids. It is postulated that the polyenoic VLCFA may play an important role in normal brain and accumulate in Zellweger syndrome brain because of a deficiency in the peroxisomal beta-oxidation pathway, although a possible peroxisomal role in the control of carbon-chain elongation cannot be discounted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Chemistry*
  • Cholesterol Esters / analysis
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Lipids / analysis*
  • Liver / analysis
  • Microbodies
  • Nerve Degeneration*
  • Syndrome
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Cholesterol Esters
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Lipids