Lipid metabolism in anaerobic ecosystems

Roderick I. Mackie, Bryan A. White, Marvin P. Bryant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In anaerobic ecosystems, acyl lipids are initially hydrolyzed by microbial lipases with the release of free fatty acids. Glycerol, galactose, choline, and other non-fatty acid components released during hydrolysis are fermented to volatile fatty acids by the fermentative bacteria. Fatty acids are not degraded further in the rumen or other parts of the digestive tract but are subjected to extensive biohydrogenation especially in the rumen. However, in environments such as sediments and waste digesters, which have long retention times, both long and short chain fatty acids are βoxidized to acetate by a special group of bacteria, the H2-producing syntrophs. Long chain fatty acids can also be degraded by a-oxidation. Biotransformation of bile acids, cholesterol, and steroids by intestinal microorganisms is extensive. Many rumen bacteria have specific growth requirements for fatty acids such as n-valeric, iso-valeric, 2-methylbutyric, and iso-butyric acids. Some species have requirements for C13 to C18 straight-chain saturated or monoenoic fatty acids for growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)449-479
Number of pages31
JournalCritical Reviews in Microbiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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