The catalytic and structural basis of archaeal glycerophospholipid biosynthesis

Niels A W de Kok, Arnold J M Driessen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Downloads (Pure)


Archaeal glycerophospholipids are the main constituents of the cytoplasmic membrane in the archaeal domain of life and fundamentally differ in chemical composition compared to bacterial phospholipids. They consist of isoprenyl chains ether-bonded to glycerol-1-phosphate. In contrast, bacterial glycerophospholipids are composed of fatty acyl chains ester-bonded to glycerol-3-phosphate. This largely domain-distinguishing feature has been termed the "lipid-divide". The chemical composition of archaeal membranes contributes to the ability of archaea to survive and thrive in extreme environments. However, ether-bonded glycerophospholipids are not only limited to extremophiles and found also in mesophilic archaea. Resolving the structural basis of glycerophospholipid biosynthesis is a key objective to provide insights in the early evolution of membrane formation and to deepen our understanding of the molecular basis of extremophilicity. Many of the glycerophospholipid enzymes are either integral membrane proteins or membrane-associated, and hence are intrinsically difficult to study structurally. However, in recent years, the crystal structures of several key enzymes have been solved, while unresolved enzymatic steps in the archaeal glycerophospholipid biosynthetic pathway have been clarified providing further insights in the lipid-divide and the evolution of early life.

Original languageEnglish
Article number29
Number of pages40
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17-Aug-2022


  • Archaea/metabolism
  • Bacteria/metabolism
  • Ethers/chemistry
  • Glycerol/metabolism
  • Glycerophospholipids/metabolism
  • Membrane Lipids/metabolism
  • Phosphates/metabolism

Cite this