Algal lipids and effect of the environment on their biochemistry

  • Irina A. Guschina
  • John L. Harwood


Lipids play a number of roles in living organisms and can be divided into two main groups: the nonpolar lipids (acylglycerols, sterols, free (nonesterified) fatty acids, wax, and steryl esters) and polar lipids (phosphoglycerides, glycosylglycerides). Polar lipids and sterols are important structural components of cell membranes which act as a selective permeable barrier for cells and organelles. These lipids maintain specific membrane functions providing the matrix for a very wide variety of metabolic processes and participate directly in membrane fusion events. In addition to a structural function, some polar lipids may act as key intermediates (or precursors of intermediates) in cell signalling pathways (e.g. inositol lipids, sphingolipids, oxidative products) and play a role in responding to changes in the environment. Of the nonpolar lipids, the triacylglycerols are abundant storage products, which can be easily catabolised to provide metabolic energy (Gurr et al. 2002). Waxes are common extracellular surface-covering compounds but may act (in form of wax esters) as energy stores especially in organisms from cold water habitats (Guschina and Harwood 2007). Sterols of algae have been studied extensively and a number of comprehensive reviews are already available on these nonpolar lipids (e.g., Patterson 1991; Volkman 2003; see also Chap. 3).


Fatty Acid Composition Photosynthetically Active Radiation Polar Lipid Steryl Ester Phaeodactylum Tricornutum 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of BiosciencesCardiff UniversityWalesUK

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