Chapter 12 : Psychrophiles: Membrane Adaptations

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This chapter talks about membrane adaptations, with emphasis on the adaptive changes occurring in prokaryotes; where relevant, the distinctive changes in eukaryotes will be compared. Genotypic adaptation refers to adaptive changes on an evolutionary time scale (usually longer than that for phenotypic adaptation), which involve an alteration in genetic structure, i.e., mutations occur and are positively selected if favorable to become established as part of the genome. Of particular relevance to the membrane adaptations of psychrophiles are the phenotypic and genotypic adaptations in lipid composition (the cellular “lipiome”), for which there is much information. Like the membranes of higher organisms, those of microorganisms are comprised mainly of proteins and lipids, together with a smaller amount of carbohydrate in the form of glycoproteins, glycolipids, or other molecules, organized as described originally in the Fluid-Mosaic Model of membrane structure. The presence of lipids that have a tendency to form non-bilayer phases gives a certain tension to the membrane and may be important in helping to drive processes such as sporulation and cell division that involve segregation of membranes. Microorganisms modify their membrane lipid fatty acyl composition in response to thermal changes by altering unsaturation, (methyl) branching, or chain length. The -unsaturated fatty acids are synthesized by direct and non-reversible isomerization of cisunsaturated fatty acyl chains without a saturated intermediate. The gene for the / isomerase enzyme has been cloned and the enzyme purified. Anteiso-branched fatty acids seem to be particularly associated with growth at low temperatures.

Citation: Russell N. 2007. Psychrophiles: Membrane Adaptations, p 155-164. In Gerday C, Glansdorff N (ed), Physiology and Biochemistry of Extremophiles. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815813.ch12
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